Many people are familiar with bunions, the often painful protrusion at the base of the big toe caused by a misalignment of the foot bones. Fewer people may know that a similar condition can develop on the other side of the foot, with the small toe. This deformity is given the pet name of a “bunionette,” but just because it’s smaller doesn’t make it less of a problem.
A Bunion’s Baby Brother
Each toe is connected to the rest of the foot by a long bone called a metatarsal. If one of these bones on either side of the foot begins to push outward, it creates a hard bump along the side of the foot. In the case of a bunionette, this happens where the metatarsal bone connects to the little toe bone: the metatarsophalangeal joint, or MTP joint for short.
You might also hear the condition referred to as a “tailor’s bunion.” This is because many tailors in the past used to sit cross-legged during their work, causing the outside edges of the feet to rub against the ground. This would often create a bump in the same location.
The potential causes of a protrusion on either side of the foot are similar. Some people have a family genetic history of developing this deformity, or are born with a misalignment in the foot that eventually develops into a bunionette or bunion. Arthritis can also play a factor.
Plenty has also been said about heels and tight shoes playing roles in the development of bunions of all sizes. While there is still some debate over whether shoes can directly cause a bump, they assuredly can make an existing problem progressively worse. We won’t even get into how much pain these kinds of shoes can cause!
Treating the Little Toe
A bunionette is rather simple to diagnose through standard evaluation, but we might still take an X-ray to see the current state of the MTP joint and metatarsal. Based on our findings, we can then discuss with you the various courses of treatment.
Not all cases of this deformity require surgery. There are many conservative ways to manage symptoms, including changes in footwear, the use of custom orthotics to remove excess force from the area, and pads to help reduce pressure and pain. We may recommend managing pain through anti-inflammatory medications (e.g. Advil, Aleve) or the use of hot or cold compresses, depending on what works best for you.
If conservative measures fail to provide enough relief, then surgical options may be considered. There is more than one type of surgical procedure available to relieve or correct a bunionette, and the type chosen will depend on the severity of your problem as well as your overall health and needs. The bump might be removed by chiseling at and smoothing out the bone, or the entire metatarsal bone might be cut and realigned.
The best thing you can do to help a bump on either side of your foot is to wear roomy shoes that don’t place force on your forefoot. For more help, however, Dr. Sanjay Patel and the staff of Family Foot Care & Surgery are here to provide the best in advice and treatment. Schedule an appointment at one of our two area offices by calling (203) 876-7736 for Milford or (203) 288-4055 for Hamden, CT.