The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

What Can a Podiatrist Do For Bunions?

Posted by on Monday, April 20th, 2015

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Bunions are the most common issue treated by podiatrists. Even though about 23% of people between the ages of 18 and 65 have  trouble with this bony protrusion, many people are still embarrassed by it and delay seeking treatment until they are experiencing pain. No matter what stage your bunion is at, there are many ways a podiatrist from The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in New York City can help make your problem more bearable. As an added perk, most of these cures aren’t scary at all!

bunions
Bunions don’t mean that you have to buy the world’s largest pair of shoes to find a comfortable fit. Image Source: Wikimedia.org

Diagnosing Bunions

One good reason to see a New York podiatrist about your bunion is that this kind of visit can help you gain some perspective. You may have questions like, “How bad is this bunion?” and “If I do nothing, will it get worse?” In a routine office exam, your podiatrist can gauge the severity of your bunion and help you develop a treatment plan. More importantly, we’ll be able to tell you if that bump joint is truly a bunion. You’d be surprised how many people come into our office, presuming they have a bunion, but it turns out to be something completely different.

If your bump is not a bunion, it could be any of the following:

  • Capsulitis (an inflamed joint)
  • Neuroma (an overgrown nerve)
  • Bursitis (an inflamed fluid-filled sack)
  • Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common alternative diagnosis when a patient comes in with a “bunion” problem. A blood test may also be required to rule out arthritis. Here’s the bad news: if you what thought was a bunion actually turned out to be arthritis, but you waited until the pain set in to seek treatment, your options may be limited. Once you have destroyed the cartilage in your joint, we have no way of making new cartilage. There is exciting new research in the field of cartilage production, but we are still many years from a treatment.

In the early stages, arthritis can be treated with a custom orthotic and a clean-up procedure known as a cheilectomy. Cheilectomies remove scar tissue or damaged cartilage debris from the problem area that are causes of symptoms. In some cases, a relatively simple realignment or metatarsal shortening procedure can improve joint function. If left untreated, the joint will become completely destroyed, leaving fusion or joint replacement surgery as the only options.

How to Stop Bunions from Worsening

If it turns out you do have bunions, then the next step is to alleviate pain and stop the bunion from worsening. A good podiatrist will ask you some questions about your lifestyle to uncover possible factors that are contributing to your bunions. If your mother, grandmother and sister have bunions, then it’s probably genetic. Natural anomalies like flat feet, low arches or inflammatory joint disease that run in families may have led to the development of your bunion. We’ll ask you to try to remember if you had any athletic injuries, broken bones, or sprains that may have knocked the foot architecture out of alignment as well.

Sometimes, footwear can affect bunion development. Shoes that are too tight or that squeeze the toes together can be brutal for a foot with bunions. We understand if you love fashionable heels or have to wear a certain type of shoe for work. However, we are also trained to advise you on various footwear options that will look great and give you some reprieve from the discomfort. We’ll talk to you about shoe brands known for having roomier toe boxes and products like bunion pads that can slow bunion growth. We’ll show you ways to tape your bunion into normal alignment to reduce stress on the joint and limit pain.

Advanced Help for Severe Bunions

Your podiatrist can also recommend the following treatment options:

  • Cortisone injections to decrease inflammation and offer immediate pain relief.
  • Physical/Ultrasound therapy to improve your range of motion and flexibility.
  • Orthotic shoe inserts to control foot function.
  • Surgery to correct extreme bunion deformity.

Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we never push patients into surgery. Usually, a few easy lifestyle changes are enough to manage your bunions and to make life more bearable. Surgery is viewed as a last resort because it carries the highest risk of complications. Our board-certified surgeons have performed thousands of successful operations over the years if you do require advanced care, but we will investigate all other options first. Contact our NYC podiatrist office (in Manhattan or White Plains) to schedule a consultation.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.