Our Pueblo, Pueblo West, CO Podiatrists Can Help With Your Bunions & Hammertoes Treatment
You may have noticed that podiatry people are not big fans of the kinds of shoes that some people go nuts over: sharply pointed toes, heels that come up higher than the knees, you get the picture. However, the reason for this is not that your podiatrist has an evil plan to make you as unfashionable as possible. It’s simply that the shoes considered fashionable are often the same shoes that can seriously aggravate numerous foot problems.
Take bunions. Now, bunions aren’t actually caused by wearing poorly-fitting shoes, but they do make an already tough problem much worse. Bunions are actually caused because of inborn misalignments within the foot. These inherent structural problems with the foot will place more stress than usual on the joint where the big toe connects with the 1st metatarsal (the long bone that attaches to the big toe and stretches down the length of the middle of the foot). Eventually, this stress may cause the tissues around the joint to stretch and become less supportive, thereby leading to further misalignment of the bones. Eventually, the metatarsal starts jutting towards the inside edge of your foot, and the big toe begins to point toward the other ones. This often results in a bump on the inside edge of your foot right next to the big toe.
And those aren’t the only problems that might crop up. Some people develop bone growth on the joint; others (although this is rare) acquire a fluid- filled sac over the bunion called a bursa. But the problem many of you may be most interested in is that bunions may make it difficult or even impossible to wear shoes. The truth is that ill-fitting shoes are often the things that turn bunions from juvenile delinquents into outright criminals. Shoes with tight toes, or pointed heels, may put even more stress on an already stressed-out toe joint, further aggravating the misalignment of the foot. The good news is that sometimes giving up those pointy, high-heeled shoes may make your bunion problem much easier to bear. But, more on that in a moment.
People with bunions will usually decide they need to go in to see a podiatrist when it becomes painful to wear shoes. Often, these people are women, whose forays into the world of fashion have brought them additional foot pain, although bunions may become aggravated simply from being on one’s feet a great deal.
Pain will likely occur where the bunion is located (i.e. at the base of the big toe). You may also notice a firm bump developing on the inner edge of your foot, next to the big toe base. In some cases, the big toe leans visibly in towards the other toes, which may lead to sores forming between the toes as they’re squeezed together, calluses forming on the big toe, corns popping up on the big or second toe, and the accumulation of massive amounts of toe jam. (Well, just kidding about that toe jam part.)
The area may also become inflamed, which means swelling, redness, and possibly skin that’s warm to the touch. Moving the joint may also become more difficult. If the bunions are particularly bad, some people may find it difficult or even impossible to walk.
Your podiatrist has probably seen a lot of bunions already. To diagnose yours, he or she will likely look for the characteristic bump on the side of your foot next to the big toe joint, and may check for or ask you about some of the above symptoms. X-rays may be ordered to provide a firm diagnosis, and to tell your podiatrist exactly how far the deformity has developed.
Bunions aren’t a problem that will simply disappear with time, although there are things you can do to help prevent the problem from getting worse, and to make yourself a lot more comfortable.
First of all, get rid of the darn high-heels and pointy-toe shoes. Seriously. The best shoes, especially for people with bunion problems, have toe boxes (the space for toes at the end of your shoe) that accommodate all of your toes (not just the ones fashion says you should have), and enable them to move around a bit. Also, avoid heels that are higher than an inch or two (the lower the better). For some people (although not everyone), this may be all you need to do to rid yourself of the pain associated with bunions.
However, many people will find that they need more extensive treatment. If you’re in this boat, there are a few things you can try. Sometimes putting felt or over-the-counter bunion pads on your bunion will reduce the pressure on the prominence and provide considerable relief. Taping the foot (you can ask your podiatrist how to do this properly) may also help hold things in proper alignment, thus reducing the stress on your joint.
You can reduce the inflammation associated with bunions by applying ice for twenty minutes an hour (always use a thin towel between ice and your skin), or by using anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen. (Your podiatrist may occasionally prescribe a more potent anti-inflammatory oral or injected medication.) Some people also find that physical therapy (specifically ultrasound therapy) may reduce bunion pain. If deemed appropriate, orthotics may be used to try to correct the original misalignment that caused the problem.
Unfortunately, sometimes the above treatments don’t correct the problem enough to enable you to live without significant pain. If that’s the case, then it may be time to discuss surgical options with your podiatrist. There are over one hundred surgeries that have been used to correct bunion problems. Your podiatrist will discuss the option that best suits your particular problem, taking into account your lifestyle and other medical needs.
Some surgeries (bunionectomies) simply remove the bony growth from the joint. This is more typically used with less severe cases. In other surgeries, the metatarsal may be cut and the bones realigned into proper position using screws, pins, and plates to keep everything in the right place. Usually this also involves fixing any soft tissue problems that may have developed along with the bunion, such as tendon problems.
Whatever the treatment you use, be sure to follow the advice of your doctor. Doing so will make it much less likely that your bunions will return to haunt your life again. Contact Pueblo Ankle and Foot Care today for a comprehensive evaluation.
HAMMERTOE CORRECTION & TREATMENTS
Putting toes and hammers together often results in some major misfortune. So, as you might imagine, the condition called hammertoes isn’t really an ideal state for the digits of your feet. (Although really, it’s hard to say whether the name came about because the toes resemble hammers, or simply look as though they’ve been hammered.) When you have hammertoes, the joints of one or more toes become semi-permanently or permanently bent, making the middle joint of the toe jut up, just as if your toe had decided to take on the shape of a tent (or maybe a pyramid, if you’re into ancient history). Hammertoes often start out flexible, meaning you can still bend the joint-it just tends to revert to the crooked position when you leave it alone, although they do become inflexible over time. As the condition worsens, the joints become locked in place, which is not the way joints are supposed to behave. Hammertoes may have several causes, but most commonly come about due to muscle imbalances. The tendons pulling the toe inward may be stronger than the ones that pull the toe straight, thus resulting in a toe that’s bumped up in the middle. Hammertoes (or a tendency to develop them) might have been something you inherited from your parents (or grandparents, or third cousins), although they may also be caused or exacerbated by wearing shoes that scrunch the toes up into a small space (i.e. shoes with tiny little toe boxes and/or high heels-the usual lineup of suspects). They may also develop due to an injury, such as a break in the toe, or arthritis.
Some people may not experience uncomfortable symptoms until their condition is a little more advanced. However, the first sign that something’s up is the visibly obvious bending of the toe upward at the middle toe joint, making the toe look like a hammer or a claw. This may be followed by pain or even corns on the top of that pointed toe joint (caused when your shoe rubs against the raised toe), and calluses on the ball of your foot (they form because the base of the toe is now jutting down abnormally and putting extra pressure on the ball of the foot). As things get a bit more severe, the joint itself may begin to feel stiff and painful, and it may become inflamed (red, swollen, warm to the touch). Eventually, you may not be able to move the joint very well, or at all.
It’s a good idea to go in to see your podiatrist when your toes begin to take on that hammer-like or clawed appearance, especially if you’re finding it painful to walk because of the condition. Your podiatrist will likely make the diagnosis by examining your foot visually, and may test the joint for flexibility and pain. He or she may also suggest X-rays in order to get an insider’s look at what’s going on in your foot.
Treatment options are varied, and depend a great deal on how far progressed your hammertoes are. For instance, when the joint’s still pretty flexible, it may be possible to treat the condition entirely without surgery.
This will likely be accomplished by your podiatrist prescribing orthotics (fancy shoe inserts designed specifically for you) that will help correct the imbalance in your foot that’s causing the hammertoes. Plus, they’ll make you more comfortable while they’re doing all that correcting. Your podiatrist may also try taping the toes (that is-he or she will put tape on the toes, not take the toes in for a session in a recording studio) in order to straighten them and provide additional support. Exercising your calves (the ones on your legs-not the ones on the farm) and toe muscles will also help provide additional strength and stability for your foot. There are also a few things you can do to relieve some of the painful symptoms that come with hammertoes. You could try using pads to reduce the pressure on the tops of your toes: hammertoe pads or corn pads may be available over the counter, but you may want to avoid the medicated ones-the acid in the medication may be harmful, particularly to those with circulation problems. If your toe joint is swollen and inflamed, you can try applying ice (20 minutes on, 40 minutes off, and always use a thin towel between the ice and your skin) or taking anti-inflammatory medication (ibuprofen, or you can talk to your podiatrist about a cortisone shot) to reduce inflammation.
Also, (and this may be an obvious one, but it’s a method some people ignore), you should probably ditch the shoes with the tight toes and high heels. Give your toes plenty of room in the toe box (about half an inch past the end of each toe) and avoid heels over two inches (and lower, if possible), since they tend to squish your toes into the end of your shoe. If doing all that doesn’t really seem to help, or if your toes have gotten to the point where they refuse to bend at all (the stubborn little things), then it may be time to consider surgery. Your podiatrist knows a lot of options and can discuss which ones will be most likely to fit your particular needs. For the more flexible kinds of hammertoe, a simple release of the tight tendon may be all you need to get relief. This usually involves only a very small incision and a pretty rapid recovery time (although that recovery time gets longer if more toes receive the surgery). Or, your foot surgeon may find it best to remove a little portion of the bone from the joint in order to straighten it. This may also be paired with a tendon release. In cases where the condition is pretty advanced, it may be necessary to fuse the joint (which usually involves the insertion of pins into the joint to hold it in place while it heals), remove wedges of skin, or insert or rebalance the affected tendons. Recovery time will vary, depending on what treatment method you use. But, if all goes well, you can once again have toes that resemble toes, and not something you find in a greasy toolbox. Contact Pueblo Ankle and Foot Care today, we can help you find relief from hammertoes.