Hallux valgus may sound like a complicated, rare disease or a spell from the Harry Potter universe, but it's actually another name for bunions, a common foot disorder.
If your podiatrist has diagnosed you with hallux valgus, you may be a little taken aback. Don't worry, that's just a long name for a common foot disorder also known as a bunion. The hallux is better known as your big toe, and "valgus" means bent or twisted. These two words together describe exactly what a bunion is your big toe bent toward your other toes. Moving on to your next possible concerns: why does this problem exist and how can it be treated or prevented?
Hallux Valgus 101
Bunions form due to pressure on the two joints of the big toe. This toe becomes angled unnaturally inward and the bunion is the resulting deformity of the bone. Contrary to popular belief, they are not tumors or cysts. Bunions can present with pain, swelling, and increasingly limited range of motion.
Experts are divided on the cause of bunions: some believe that they are genetic, while others place the blame on years of wearing shoes that crowd the toes. In either case, shoes are thought to worsen hallux valgus deformities over time if they put pressure on the toes or contort the feet into abnormal positions. Since women's footwear is generally more narrow and confining than men's, bunions occur more often in them. While arthritis does not necessarily cause bunions, the joint inflammation can worsen them.
Your podiatrist will likely recommend nonsurgical options first. You should ensure that your shoes are comfortable and fit properly. Specialty shoe store employees can take measurements of your foot and recommend the best size. Shoe inserts or arch supports can be used to redistribute your weight and relax the muscles. For pain, overthecounter analgesics like ibuprofen or naproxen are recommended.
If you continue you to have problems, surgery to remove some of the bone or surrounding tissue to straighten the foot back into position. A change in the shape of your foot or the way your shoes fit warrants a call to your podiatrist for an evaluation.