Slowing the Progression of Bunions through the Use of Orthotic Devices


Orthotic devices are medical constructs used to support and/or realign the lower limbs, and they are either purchased ‘over the counter’ or custom designed by a specialist. These devices have a variety of uses, one of them being the slowing of the progression of bunions through the realignment of bones and ligaments and the redistribution of pressures throughout the foot.

While orthotic devices cannot ‘cure’ bunions they can slow their development by treating the instability and mechanical deformities and/or dysfunctions that cause the bunion to develop in the first place. Orthotic devices also often provide relief from the discomfort frequently associated with this condition.

The only true ‘cure’ for bunions is surgical intervention, but this option is not without risks and complications, and is thus usually perceived as a last resort option, though orthotic devices are compulsory after any type of bunion surgery. However, all other treatment options are generally exhausted before surgery is even considered. Orthotic devices are generally very effective in the treatment of foot disorders as high quality devices compensate for sup-bar functioning of the foot by limiting abnormal movement and rotation throughout the limb.

Functional orthoses are used to control unorthodox positioning and movement in the foot during weight bearing activities, such as standing or walking. These devices also stabilize the mid-foot and heel; ‘normalize’ the mechanical motions of the lower limbs to a satisfying degree, and limit the amount of pronation that can occur during the gait cycle. This correction is crucial to effective, non-surgical treatment of bunions and while it is not a cure the correct use of orthotic devices for this purpose can help slow the progression of this condition, particularly if pressures within the big toe are effectively reduced.

While functional orthotics can minimize bunion development by effectively redistributing body weight so that the first metatarsal head is exposed to less pressure care should be taken that the shoe does not become ‘crowded’. If there is insufficient space in shoe due to the introduction of an othortic device propulsion of the foot may be limited and the first ray of the foot may become ‘blocked’.

Like most foot problems the treatment of bunions and the effective use of orthotic devices to slow their development may depend on early intervention, as using a device may be more effective when the intermetatarsal angle is not yet notably developed. If the bunion has progressed beyond a certain point surgical intervention will almost inevitably be required, however, the introduction of conservative treatment in the earlier stages is almost sure to be effective in reducing the severity of the affliction.

It is also worth noting that using custom orthotic devices may be more effective in slowing down bunion development than the use of ‘ready-made’ orthotic devices as varying levels of flexibility throughout the foot may be required to maximize tension distribution. It sometimes happens that the materials and structure of an OTC orthotic device does not match the needs of the patient, so while orhotic devices may be very effective in slowing down the progression of bunions it’s important to note that not all devices are equally effective.

View Orthotics to Treat Bunions

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