Hallux valgus is a slow-developing condition that occurs when the big toe, over many years, bends out of shape and then forms a large bump on the foot called a bunion. Look at your toes: If your big toe bends toward the other toes on the same foot, you've probably got the condition.
People with hallux valgus usually report that their big toe hurts when they put weight on it -- when walking, for example. But if they have a bunion, it can hurt even when they don't place pressure on their foot, and they usually describe this pain as a "numbing" or "burning" sensation.
The name hallux valgus combines hallux, which is another term for the big toe, and valgus, which refers to that big toe's deviation when you have the condition. Despite the name, however, the big toe isn't the only structure affected. Three bones actually shift, two that make up the big toe and one in the forefoot that the toe attaches to, the first metatarsal.
The metatarsal and big toe are connected by a joint that you feel as a bump on the inside of your foot, just below the toe. Hallux valgus often develops when there's damage to this joint, known as the metatarsophalangeal joint. If you have a bunion, it's the joint it grows on. The usual cause of damage is some sort of chronic abuse, but other factors can also be responsible, such as a broken toe that doesn't heal properly.
The condition usually becomes apparent during middle age and is most common in women who wear a lot of high-heeled or pointed shoes. Restrictive footwear of this nature can aggravate the foot and cause the condition because of the pressure it places on the big toe.
People who over-pronate, who have a genetic-based predisposition to roll their feet inward too much every time they step, are also susceptible. When they do this, it can put pressure on the big toe and first metatarsal. Other genetic-based causes of hallux valgus include poor foot structures and inflammatory arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis can lead to the condition because it sometimes causes severe degeneratation of the metatarsophalangeal joint and leads to abnormalities in surrounding bones.
If you have hallux valgus, your chiropractor can examine your foot to determine which factors contributed to your condition. He or she can then use a number of techniques and modalities to decrease pain and improve your foot's function.