Bunions, Hammertoes, and Deformities
Foot deformities such as bunions and hammertoes develop slowly—so slowly that you might not notice or think much of them at first.
But over time, these conditions get worse and worse, and eventually start to affect your day-to-day life. You experience pain when you perform certain activities. You can’t wear your favorite shoes anymore. You find you can no longer walk long distances or stay as active as you’d like to be.
Don’t wait until your deformity reaches this point before seeking treatment! Although we can provide treatment and relief for even the most severe foot deformities, you can save yourself years (or even decades) of discomfort by coming in at the first sign of trouble.
What Is a Bunion?
A bunion is an enlarged bony bump that develops along the side of your foot, at the base of the big toe. It results from progressively worsening instability and misalignment within that joint, and also causes the big toe to drift toward (or even cross over) the second toe.
In other words, the long metatarsal bone in the middle of your foot shifts toward the center of your body, the toe bones go the other way, and the joint in the middle becomes enlarged and inflamed. The result is progressively worsening pain, restricted motion, and secondary complications like corns and calluses.
What Is a Hammertoe?
A hammertoe is the result of an abnormal bend in the middle knuckle of any of the four smaller toes on each foot. They are usually caused by a strength imbalance in the muscles or connective tissues responsible for curling and lengthening the toe.
At first, hammertoe joints remain relatively flexible—so you can still push the toe back into place with your fingers. As the hammertoe gets worse, however, the joint begins losing mobility, and eventually becomes rigid. As with bunions, moving the toe may become painful, and secondary complications can form where toes rub against the inside of your shoe.
What Causes Bunions, Hammertoes, and Related Foot Deformities?
It isn’t always clear what causes any particular bunion or hammertoe. However, several underlying factors have been shown to contribute to these deformities—either causing them, or at least making the worse.
- Genetics. Bunions and hammertoes tend to run in families. You may have inherited a foot structure that is prone to developing foot deformities.
- Shoes. Shoes that crowd your toes or push all your weight to the front of the foot, such as high heels, are often linked with higher rates of bunions and hammertoes.
- Trauma. Specific injuries (acute or overuse) to the toe joints can destabilize them over time.
Can Bunions or Hammertoes Be Treated Without Surgery?
The unfortunate truth is that reconstructive surgery is the only way to restore the natural alignment of your feet and toes once a deformity has begun. And without surgery, the problem usually gets worse.
If your deformity is still in the very early stages, we can pursue conservative treatments (taping, splinting, stretching, shoe changes, etc.) to manage the symptoms. Sometimes this can slow the progression of the deformity.
However, by the time most people start to see us about their deformity, they’re usually already in a lot of pain and can’t wear their normal shoes any more. At this stage, reconstructive surgery is almost always the best choice. That way, we simply fix the problem and allow you to wear your regular shoes and do your regular activities, rather than try to accommodate the problem indefinitely.
Correction for Bunions, Hammertoes, and Other Deformities
A deformed, malformed, or mechanically compromised foot must be repaired through reconstructive surgery. The goal is realign and reposition the bones, tendons, and ligaments so that they look and function as normally (and painlessly) as possible.
Each surgical plan is unique and depends not only on the type and severity of the condition itself, but also factors such as your lifestyle goals and surgical history. We may use techniques such:
- Transferring connective tissues
- Cutting and realigning bones (osteotomy)
- Fusing bones (arthrodesis)
- Removing damaged joint surfaces (resection arthroplasty)
- Replacing a damaged joint with an artificial implant
For more in-depth details about these procedures, please review our webpage on reconstructive surgery.
While we understand the prospect of surgery isn’t always fun, the truth is that reconstructive surgery is highly effective in the vast majority of cases. Your recovery may take a few weeks to a few months, but in the end, you’ll have a foot that looks, works, and functions the way it’s supposed to.
To schedule an appointment with one of our doctors at Comprehensive Foot Centers in Metro Kansas City, please give us a call toll free at (816) 455-1155 today.