At Mullumbimby Comprehensive Health Centre we acknowledge the benefits of working together as practitioners to treat the body as a whole. We can combine a variety of modalities when indicated for individual needs, which is one of our many assets in supporting preventative health for our patients.
Let’s take a look at a common foot complaint that affects many people – bunions – with the collaborative knowledge of our Podiatrist and Physiotherapist.
What are bunions?
Bunions most commonly occur on the big toe joint and affect women at a rate 10 times greater than men. They are a buildup of bone deposits over the joint, which are called osteophytes. Poor alignment of the knees or ankles due to lower back pain or weakness of core muscles including hip stabilising muscles, which may be induced by pregnancy, surgery or other structural issues, may further exacerbate an existing bunion or contribute to the development of a bunion.
Bunions can cause some people pain due to joint stiffness from inflammation, compression or arthritis developing in the joint. Over time, this may cause long term issues such as a deformity of the big toe as the bunion pulls the big toe off to the side towards the other toes.This happens when the muscle on the inside of the big toe gaining advantage over the outside muscle, which is what causes the misalignment.
The good news is that there are many options besides surgery to help treat your bunions.
Here’s a look at how our podiatrists and physiotherapists work together in treating and supporting bunions at our centre.
Podiatrists are experts in the recovery and management of all foot and lower limb related issues. Our podiatrists recommend three key things to help treat and prevent bunions, however, all recommendations are individualised and will be accessed by your practitioner within your consultation.
- Shoes are important
Firstly, footwear is important to prevent a build up of bone on the joint in the first place, and in existing cases, to reduce the risk of pain due to compression. Our podiatrists recommend choosing wide fitting shoes, especially around the big toe area where the bunions tend to form. This prevents the shoes rubbing on the side of the foot aggravating the area of the bunion. High heels are a no-no for the same reason.
- Strengthening exercises
Exercises for strengthening the muscles that stabilise the toes are an important step in slowing down the misalignment caused by muscle imbalance from the bunion.
- Foot support
Night splints and toe wedges are two products that can help straighten the toe, which will reduce the chance of the deformity getting worse. They are usually needed on a long term basis to help re-correct the imbalance of muscles pulling the toe off centre.
In particular cases, prescription orthotics may also be indicated, depending on arch collapse and flexibility. These may be supportive in slowing the progression of bunions down.
Physiotherapists are experts in the diagnosis, management and prevention of movement disorders. They help improve quality of life by supporting the reduction in pain and joint stiffness, improving strength and helping with the recovery from injury, surgery and physically impacting life events, by assisting in the prevention of future injuries.
All recommendations are individualised and will be accessed by your practitioner within your consultation.
Physiotherapists help to support and treat bunions by looking at the lower limbs and lumbar spine to see if either of these areas are contributing to the development of bunions due to misalignment.
Poor balance after an ankle sprain, for example, may lead to weakness in the foot, specifically the muscles that help to support the arches of your feet, contributing to the imbalance placed on the toe muscles that hold the big toe in place.
If muscle weakness and loss of range of motion is not addressed after injury, surgery or other physically impacting effects on the body such as pregnancy, there is a risk of having a chronic (long term) injury/issue that takes longer to heal and recover from. Seeing a physiotherapist after common injuries and physically impacting life events may help to identify areas of concern and reduce the risk of developing or worsening existing bunions.
Treatment from our professional physiotherapists may include specific massage to release tight ligaments and muscles affecting the problem area and associated areas. Focused stretches and manual mobilisation of joints in the foot and ankle may also be used. Strength exercises targeting weak muscles in the foot, ankle, knee and hips as well as balancing exercises are also considered. General advice in relation to footwear may also be addressed.
Our allied health team are all located under the one roof at Mullumbimby Comprehensive Health Centre and our referral process is simple and easy between practitioners. All of our practitioners have access to your health notes once you are in consultation with them to help ensure continuity of care.
Please contact our reception on (02) 6684 1511 to book a session with one of our practitioners if you would like more information. Our podiatrist Jim Walker is available 3 days per week & our physiotherapist Anjana Marsia is available on Friday’s.