Don’t Ignore Bunions in Children
Ladies, we’re letting you off the hook this time. Usually when we talk about bony bumps by someone’s big toes, we mention how women are more prone to these unattractive, misshapen joints and the horrors of wearing high heels too much. This time, we are going to address bunions in children’s feet, which is a slightly different problem.
What Causes Juvenile Bunions?
When this problem occurs so early in life, it is usually not a matter of just wearing the wrong shoes—although a pair that is too tight can certainly make the problem worse in a hurry! The underlying reason your child (more often your daughter) is likely to develop this deformity is that the ligaments in the metatarsophalangeal joint are lax. This is the joint where the big toe meets the foot, and when ligaments are too loose, the joint can move around in abnormal ways.
The problem increases if your child has flat feet or any other abnormality in his or her foot mechanics. In a perfect world, all our joints would stay lined up properly with each stride. When our gait is off, though, it can increase pressure on the side of the toe, causing it to be pushed in toward the other toes with each step. As a result, the joint moves in the opposite direction and bends out at a greater angle than normal. The bump that you see is actually the end of the foot bone (metatarsal) that attaches to the big toe bones (phalanges).
Do Pediatric Bunions Hurt?
These deformities usually do cause pain, although some cases move from adolescence to adulthood and never end up causing issues until later in life, when they can become arthritic. In fact, in many places in the world where people walk barefoot, having this condition without painful symptoms is quite common.
Because most kids in the USA wear shoes, they are more likely to have problems with this deformity. The bump can rub against the shoe and become irritated, red, swollen, and sore. If the joint has moved quite far out of alignment, it can ache and you may have trouble finding shoes that fit without causing foot pain when walking.
How to Treat Bunions in Kids Who Are Still Growing
Because the foot isn’t fully mature until about 15 to 16 years of age, we hesitate to perform surgery too early. For one thing, we don’t want to risk harm to the bones’ growth plates, and for another, we may want to wait to see how the bones and joints finally develop to avoid needing a second surgery.
In the meantime, there are conservative treatments that may help:
- Look for roomier shoes that match the shape of the foot and allow your child’s toes to lie straight. Avoid pairs that have elevated heels, as this will shove the foot forward into the toe box area.
- While bones are still hardening, it is possible that wearing a splint at night will help straighten them and stretch the soft tissues to keep the problem from getting worse.
- A consistent stretching routine can help in the same way, and exercises can strengthen the muscles to hold the foot in better position.
- Orthotics that offload weight and pressure from problem areas can do a lot to alleviate pain and correct faulty biomechanics, which helps the joint stay straighter during movement.
If your child is one of the few who experience extreme pain from a bunion, surgery is still an option to correct bone and joint position and help relieve discomfort.
Expert Foot Treatment in the Carson Valley
Dr. Victoria Melhuish has seen and treated many a crooked toe joint in adults and children alike, so don’t delay getting relief for your child’s bunion pain. Sierra Foot & Ankle provides expert evaluation of this joint deformity and appropriate treatment that will help your child be more comfortable. Call us in Carson City at (775) 783-8037 or fill out our online contact form today!