A bunion is a common foot complaint, affecting nearly 1/4 adults. It is more prevalent among women than men, and can cause a range of issues. Alongside pain, bunions can cause shoes to fit poorly, possibly affecting walking if severe enough.

What is a Bunion?

The long bones that make up the toes don’t end where the big toe meets the foot. There is one more within the foot, and it’s the joint between these two long bones where a bunion forms. The joint “gaps” outward, forming a bulge on the inner border of the foot. A lump forms at this point, which may be painful to the touch or on walking. More severe cases may also see the toe pointing off centre, sometimes even clashing with the second toe. Mechanically speaking, your big toe is very important for walking correctly. Loss of movement should be addressed to avoid further problems.

The displaced joint itself becomes painful, more so when shoes begin to rub. Some people begin to avoid restrictive shoes at this point to save the friction, or simply find that their old shoes no longer fit.

In the early stages, the whole area can become inflamed. If you notice heat, redness, or swelling, it may be time to seek advice. If these symptoms are present with severe pain, you may be suffering from gout instead. Your osteopath can distinguish between the two and refer you onto the appropriate setting.

What Causes a Bunion to Develop?

A couple of factors have been well documented in playing a role in bunion development. Unfortunately, one of these is anatomy. Certain features of the joint in question can predispose a person to bunions- and this comes down to genetics.

The second factor is something you have control over: footwear. High heels and ill-fitting shoes can apply excessive pressure to the joint. Tight and pointed shoes are noted as particularly unhelpful for bunions. Wearing sensible shoes is particularly wise if you have a family history of bunions and may be genetically predisposed to developing them.


Your osteopath can assess your foot and diagnose a bunion. Correction of a bunion requires surgery, but we may be able to ease some discomfort. Improving adaptability throughout the foot can be enough to take the edge off things. We can also give advice for lifestyle changes and exercises that might further improve your symptoms. Sometimes it’s a good idea to look at supports: there are a number of splints, toe spacers, and insoles that may help.

The NHS recommends medical assessment if you have bunions and diabetes as diabetes is associated with complications of foot problems.

Bunions may come with other problems like osteoarthritis. This can be both a cause and an effect in the case. The presence of arthritis in the joint is likely to increase pain and other symptoms, so prevention and management are important. Your osteopath can work into the affected joints to encourage the cartilage to become more healthy.

Make an appointment online now to start managing your foot pain.