You might not think that your big toe and your tiny pinky toe have a lot in common, but the outermost vanguards on either side of your foot share a few common risks. They’re often the ones to feel most of the squeeze when you put on a tight pair of shoes, and both can be pushed out of alignment. The tip of the toe drifts toward its neighbors, while the base of the toe pushes in the opposite direction, forming a bony bump. When this happens to your first toe, it’s called a bunion, and when it happens to your fifth toe, it’s called a bunionette or tailor's bunion.
Underestimate the protrusion at your own peril; just because it’s smaller doesn’t mean it’s any easier to deal with. This small toe deformity can be just as painful, and make shoe shopping just as difficult, as its larger cousin.
Where Did the Bump by Your Little Toe Come From?
As with bunions, bunionettes can usually be traced to some combination of genetic and environmental factors. Most people who develop this kind of bump have an underlying structural problem with their feet that puts extra weight on the joint at the base of their toe. The problem is exacerbated by frequently wearing cramped shoes, especially those with heels greater than 2”, which funnel even more pressure where your body can least handle it.
Once a diagnosis is confirmed, we can discuss what sorts of treatments might be the most effective for your situation. Common procedures include both surgical and non-surgical approaches
Conservative Treatment Methods
Generally, non-surgical care is recommended at least initially. Although none of these methods will “correct” an existing deformity, they may be able to relieve your pain and return you to normal activities without the risks and length recovery times associated with surgery.
Many possible methods exist, and are often used in combination with one another to achieve the desired effect. In the most benign cases, switching to a wider pair of shoes may be all that is needed to take away the friction and pressure causing the pain. However, we usually also recommend other aids, including bunionette pads placed over the site, or shoe inserts or custom orthotics that redistribute weight and pressure away from sensitive areas.
If the toe deformity is especially painful and conservative treatment options have not been effective, it may be time to look at surgical correction. The good news is that the surgery usually does not require hospitalization (we can perform the procedure in our office and send you on your way) and is highly successful on average, with a large majority of patients seeing significant improvement and making a full recovery. The bad news is that recovery does take time, and all the usual risks of surgery apply —infection, bleeding and clots, nerve damage, and so on.
There is no one “bunionette surgery.” The specific techniques employed will depend on the severity of the damage and your lifestyle goals. In minor cases, only soft tissues are removed; in more extensive ones, bones may have to be cut and realigned, then held together with plates or screws.
Realistic Recovery Goals
Depending on the selected methods, you can expect to wear a protective boot or splint for anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months after surgery, and gradually resume normal activities over time according to the schedule provided by Dr. Reister. Full recovery may take anywhere from 3 months to 1 year. It’s important to follow all of our instructions carefully to avoid re-injuring the foot and to recover as quickly as possible.
Many people suffer from bunions or bunionettes for years before they seek treatment. You don’t have to put up with it any longer! Non-surgical treatments may help you get your life back, and while no one enjoys going under the knife, it’s a small price to pay for full pain relief. Call Dr. Gene Reister at Richardson Podiatry today at 9272-690-5374 today to set up your appointment.