Your little guy or gal starts complaining that his or her foot has an “ouchie.” After looking at their foot, you see something that looks like a bunion. Is it possible? Do kids get bunions?
Children actually can get bunions, formed from a structural malalignment of the big toe joint. Children with flat feet also tend to have a high occurrence of bunions, as do girls. For adults, a bunion is the result of extra bone overgrowth, but bunions for children are different. Genetically predisposed structural problems can be the cause of a juvenile bunion, making a parent initially jump to conclusions that surgery must be the only answer.
If surgery is unavoidable, most surgeons suggest waiting until skeletal maturity in children which happens after age 15-17. Operating on juvenile bunions is different than adult bunion surgery, as the growth plate in the foot is an important consideration. Dr. Neal Blitz, a well-published physician on bunion surgery, states in a recent article that non-operative measures should be initiated as soon as possible. Fortunately, simple changes can manage the symptoms of a juvenile bunion and quite possibly eliminate the problem.
Because children are still growing and their bones are still malleable, try these tips before resorting to surgery:
If the Shoe Fits
Kids grow so quickly that tight-fitting shoes can go unnoticed. Changing your child’s footwear to a less aggravating and/or more supportive shoe can help alleviate pain and limit the progression of bunions.
Try a New Activity
Though your little ballerina looks adorable in her tutu, a new activity that does not stress her feet in the same way may be a simple solution.
Pad and Protect
The medical community has made excellent advances in the non-surgical treatment of bunions with foot orthotics. Toe spacers and splints can help re-align the foot and allow for proper weight distribution. Because children are sensitive to cumbersome splints and orthotics, Bunion Bootie is a possible option for them. With a reputation for comfort, this splint may be better tolerated by children and help avoid surgical correction but parents should always discuss these options with their child’s doctor before starting any treatment option.
Bunions can be painful and interrupt a child’s activities, but conservative treatment is always the best first option. If those methods don’t work, consult a podiatrist for expert advice.