• Dr. Elaine Screaton DC

Bunions. What are they? And how to relieve pain?

You've probably heard of bunions before. But do you know what they are and how they can develop?

Bunions, also known as Hallux Valgus, is a lateral deviation of the great toe and a medial deviation of the first metatarsal. In layman terms, this means there is a large bump by the big toe, and the big toe ends up pointing towards the baby toe.

Note the Bunions on these feet, as the big toe ends up pointing toward the small toe.

Signs and Symptoms of Bunions:

-Pain on the inside of foot over the 1st metatarsophalangeal joint, or pain in the joint itself

-Pain or difficulty wearing shoes

-Skin irritation over inside of foot

-Medial deviation of first metatarsal

-Lateral deviation of great toe

-Radiographic signs of deviation or osteoarthritis in affected joint

-Pain while walking or running on inside of big toe, sometimes limiting activity

-limited dorsiflexion of 1st ray (limited ability to bring great toe toward the nose)

-Tend to be bilateral (ie both feet are affected)

-Tends to emerge in 3rd decade of life (ie in your 30s)

Causes of Bunions: The following have been implicated, but not always a cause.

-Wearing ill-fitting shoes (ie too narrow in the toe such as pointy toe shoes or heels)

-Occupation dependent (again likely linked to wearing poor shoes while standing all day)

-Genetic predisposition

-Tends to affect women more than men

-Having flat feet

This is an x-ray image of someone with bunions. Notice the deformity on both big toes.

Treatment of Bunions:

While treatment of severe bunions can be managed surgically, less severe cases can often be managed conservatively offering good symptomatic relief and return to activities of daily living. Conservative treatment is mainly aimed at managing symptoms and pain, and less likely to affect cosmetic appearance of the toe. Conservative treatment includes Active Release Technique, Low Intensity Laser Therapy, Joint mobilizations, and external splinting at night to help correct the deformity.

Personally I have had some success in treating bunions using combination therapy of Active Release Technique, Laser Therapy, and joint mobilizations to help restore mobility in the affected joint and reduce pain, all of which have helped patients to return to their activities of daily living with less pain.

If you have questions regarding treatment of your bunions to reduce pain, contact your Active Release Techniques certified Chiropractor and see if this treatment may be right for you!

Dr. Elaine Screaton (DC, BSc) is a Calgary NW Chiropractor, currently practicing at Synergea Family Health Centre in Calgary, AB.


1. Coughlin, M. J., & Jones, C. P. (2007). Hallux valgus: demographics, etiology, and radiographic assessment. Foot & ankle international, 28(7), 759-777.

2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bunions/symptoms-causes/syc-20354799

© 2019 Dr Elaine Screaton

Tel: 403-247-2947

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