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How Orthotics Can Prevent Bunion Surgery

Posted Aug 21 2009 12:34pm

A bunion is a common foot deformity that presents as a bump on the inside of your great toe joint. Especially in warmer climates, such as Houston, where people tend to wear open shoes year-round, people with bunions become concerned about the appearance. When they put on a closed shoe, the pressure on the bunion can cause a sharp, stabbing pain.

Most people think a bunion is a growth of bone on the side of the foot, but in most cases this is incorrect. A bunion is formed by the rotation of the first metatarsal bone which is caused by mechanical forces. This bone shifts over and causes the great toe to move over towards the second toe. This can even cause the great toe to push up the second digit, forming a hammertoe.

The worse and more painful the bunion becomes can require surgery. This often involves the bone being surgically fractured, repositioned, and repaired using a tiny screw. Needless to say, the recovery is involved, since the bone must heal. The good news is that bunions do not form overnight and steps can be taken to prevent their progression once they are noticed.

A bunion typically does not form because of bad or tight shoes, although they can contribute to them. The potential for developing a bunion is hereditary. If a parent or grandparent has a bunion, it puts you at greater risk for developing one yourself. This is because you inherit the mechanics that causes a bunion to form. So when you notice a bump on the side of your foot beginning to form, see a big callus on the side of your great toe, or start seeing your great toe drifting towards your second toe, that is the time to take action.

An orthotic is a custom insole or shoe insert that works to correct the mechanics that causes a bunion to form. By addressing the forces that cause a bunion deformity, an orthotic helps to neutralize them and redistribute them across the foot. The orthotic essentially fools your foot into functioning more efficiently and stops the bunion deformity from progressing.

To have an orthotic made properly, a podiatrist should perform a biomechanical examination to learn what forces are coming into your foot from the lower back, hips, knee, and ankle. A gait analysis is often performed to see how the foot functions when walking. Ultimately a mold of the foot is taken with plaster or fiberglass while holding the foot in a stable, neutral position. It is from this mold that the orthotic is fabricated.

The orthotic will do much more than prevent bunions from progressing! By making your feet, which are your base of support, more stable, it takes the pressure off of the knees, hips and back. In fact, many people who suffer with knee and back pain find that an orthotic removes the pressure and relieves the pain.

Bunions will reach a point where orthotics will no longer help and surgery may be your only option. The sooner you visit with a podiatrist, the more likely you will be to prevent a bunion from becoming worse and, hopefully, will be able to avoid surgery altogether.

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