Why Bunions are So Painful

Discomfort is a feeling never far from individuals with bunions. From foot structure to how we walk, multiple factors occur in the years leading up to developing a bunion. By learning how they are formed, we can understand why bunions are so painful.

A Disturbance in the Force

There’s a start to everything, and with bunions, the joint of the big toe (MTP joint) is where the issues begin. The big toe joints carry a lot of the body’s weight through a balance of the forces exerted on them. Various causes can disrupt this balance, meaning there is now abnormal motion and pressure over this joint. This can lead to joint instability and the tissues and bone of the joint to move out of place. The toe is forced to bend inward toward the others, causing the joint of the base of the big toe to now stick out and form the signature bump of the bunion.

Foot with bunion

Bunions Can Make Each Step a Pain

Bunions start small but worsen and become more prominent over time in most cases. The MTP joint may become stiff and sore. Since it flexes with each step, walking is often painful. In more advanced stages, the big toe can angle inward to the point of being over or under the second toe (hammertoe). Ultimately this can force the second toe out of alignment till it’s in contact with the third toe.

Woman with heels sitting and rubbing leg in pain

These structural changes can cause other painful symptoms, including:

  • Redness, swelling, or pain at or near the MTP joint (bursitis)
  • Development of or calluses under the ball of the foot
  • Corns or other irritations from the overlap of the first and second toes

In summary, bunions are painful because, ultimately, they change the foot’s structure. These changes force the toes and joints into places they aren’t meant to be, which ushers in its own set of consequences.

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