What is a Bunion and Why Did I Get One?

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Houston podiatrist discusses what a bunion is and why you can get oneHave you ever looked at your feet and realize that they're starting to look like your mother's feet? Or your grandmother's feet? My name is Dr. Andrew Schneider, and I'm a podiatrist in Houston, Texas. Bunions are one of the most common conditions that I see in patients of all ages in my practice. A #bunion is a bump on the side of the great toe joint. Sometimes it's painful, sometimes it's not, but most people don't like how it looks. In today's video, I'll discuss what a bunion is and also how and why a bunion forms.

So, what is a bunion? Some people call any bump on the foot of bunion, but a bunion is very specific. It's very different from something like a corn or a callus. A bunion is a protrusion of bone on the side or the top of the great toe joint. The most common presentation of a bunion is when the bump is on the side of the joint. It's not just a bone spur or a growth of bone that you may see on the side of that joint.

What you're seeing is the first metatarsal bone, the bone that's right before the great toe, that is shifting and rotating out. As the bone shifts one way, your big toe will move the other way towards your second toe. The bump that you're seeing on the side of your foot is the head of the metatarsal bone protruding out the side of your foot. This is a condition known as #HalluxValgus.

Well you may wonder, why are you developing a bunion like this? And there's a pretty easy answer. It usually is to blame a parent or a grandparent. You see developing a bunion is hereditary. You inherit a certain foot type and that foot type comes with it a certain type of mechanics. And that mechanics predisposes you to the forming of bunion. As you walk, you roll off the side of your big toe joint. That forces your big toe towards your second toe. What it also does is it sends a force back to that metatarsal bone and it sends it the other way towards the side of your foot. That's how a bunion forms and that's how it grows larger with time. Now, there are ways to control those deforming forces that causes the bunion deformity. We can stop it or slow it from progressing.

A common question I get asked is if wearing pointed shoes can cause a bunion. Now that's a common misconception. Now some shoes can make your bunion form faster by forcing your big toe over towards your second toe. Shoes, however, are rarely the primary cause of a bunion developing. It's just easier to blame the shoe than it is to blame your family.

But what I find fascinating is when a bunion is painful. For instance, I might see a mild looking bunion and it's giving the person a tremendous amount of pain, but I might see a severe looking bunion and it never gives that person a day of pain. The pain, when it's felt, could be on the bump of the bunion itself, it could be deep inside the joint. It's different for everybody.

So what about a bunion that forms on top of the great toe joint? Well, that's a little different. It can also be because of mechanics. When the first metatarsal bone is longer than it should be, this causes the joint to jam and a #BoneSpur forms on top of the metatarsal head. But bunions on top of the joint can also form because of trauma to that joint. Spraining the joint causes it to hyperextend and also causes a bone spur to form on top of the metatarsal head. This is commonly seen in injuries such as turf toe. Once the joint is jammed, every step causes microtrauma. This causes the bone spur to grow larger and larger, and it can make the joint become stiff. When this happens, it's a common condition called hallux limitus or hallux rigidus.