Bunions and Physical therapy

Anthony Crespo
Anthony Crespo Clinic Manager at AHS

What is a Bunion?

Many refer to them as “bunions” but the medical term is (Hallux Valgus) Hallux meaning your big toe and Valgus referring to angulation or “bowing”. Bunions form when the joint at the base of the big toe is misaligned which causes a notable bulge on the side of the foot.  As time goes on this area of the foot may become inflamed and swollen, causing pain and discomfort. In most cases bunions develop in older adults however younger adults may still develop bunions based on genetic factors as well as external factors. As time runs its course the affected joint causing the bunion may become stiff, deformed, and painful. This can lead to problems with shoe fitment, difficulty walking, and running. 

Several factors may cause bunions to form including:

  • Foot shape
  • Flat arches
  • Loose joints (known as laxity)
  • Genetic factors

There is a common misconception that bunions are caused by shoes; they aren’t they are just aggravated by them(.1) However wearing narrow toed or high heeled shoes can make bunions worse, and women tend to have the condition more so than men.

Pictured is a mild bunion on the right foot

What does having a bunion feel like?

As mentioned, they can be an absolute nuisance for the individual who develops them. Walking and even standing becomes a chore as the swelling of the joint gets worse. Pain will also present itself when wearing shoes, making it difficult to find comfortable or stylish footwear. There will most likely be a change in gait (walking movements). What makes bunions risky for the older population is that when a bunion is present, changes in balance occur increasing the risk of falling which increases the risk of fractures. 

How can Physical Therapy help?

Typical treatment programs for bunions can include hands-on care, exercises, and patient education. The treatment plan a physical therapist creates will help address any impairments in ankle function, toe function, and overall foot function. Other parts of the plan may include: 

  • pain management education
  • Range of motion exercises
  • Manual therapy
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Functional training

If you or a loved one is experiencing  impaired function due to bunions our physical therapists at Allied Health Solutions are here to help. Please contact us to schedule an appointment today and “step by step” we will find the most appropriate solution for you. 


  1. “Bunions.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Oct. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bunions/symptoms-causes/syc-20354799. 
  2. “Bunion Pictures: Causes & Treatments.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/ss/slideshow-about-bunions. 
  3.  “Physical Therapy Guide to Bunion (Hallux Valgus).” American Physical Therapy Association, 24 Jan. 2020, www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/physical-therapy-guide-to-bunion-hallux-valgus. 


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