Arthritis: Is the painful joint condition linked to bunions? Expert reveals possible link

Arthritis can affect the joint at the base of the big toe. The most common type of arthritis is called osteoarthritis. This is when the smooth cartilage lining of the joint begins to roughen and thicken out. Usually painful, being lumped with an unsightly bunion surely only makes things worse.

Medically referred to as a hallux valgus, bunions are bony bumps that develop slowly over time at the big toe joint (also known as the hallux metatarsophalangeal “MTP” joint).


Versus Arthritis – the UK’s largest charity dedicated to supporting people with arthritis – explained: “The joints in your body go through a normal cycle of damage and repair during your lifetime.

“But, sometimes, the process your body goes through to repair joints can change their shape or structure.


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“When these changes happen in one or more of your joints, it’s called osteoarthritis.” 

The pain and swelling associated with the condition is caused by the damage made to cartilage.

“Osteoarthritis doesn’t just affect the cartilage, but can also cause damage to the bones, ligaments, tendons and lining of affected joints,” the charity added.

Some people suffering from osteoarthritis can even hear “grating or crunching noises” when moving their feet.

Physiotherapist and osteopath Tim Allardyce – who practises at Surrey Physio – confirmed a link between bunions and arthritis.

“Over the course of time, bunions will get to the point where the big toe isn’t properly aligned with the other toes and range of motion is minimal.

“If the big toe gets stiff, you will lose the normal toe-off during gait.”

Gait refers to the manner in which someone walks.

“Due to the deviation and stiffness in the big toe, bunions can and do lead to osteoarthritis,” he continued.

Tim recommended a simple toe stretch to help minimise painful bunions.

“Place your big toe over the edge of a step, and gently push your big toe upwards, stretching it away from the rest of the foot.

“Hold the stretch for 20 seconds, and repeat twice per day.


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“After a few weeks, your big toe will get more mobile, helping to reduce pain.”

Tim attributes “wearing high heels, and narrow or tight-fitting shoes” as one factor for bunions.

Bunions may become red and swollen, and hard skin can develop around the area.

Another tip from Tim is to “wear shoes that provide ample room to avoid putting pressure on the bunion”.

“Having the shoes stretched professionally can help to alleviate pain.”

Versus Arthritis stated it’s important to keep active if you have osteoarthritis.

Even though exercise can potentially be uncomfortable, the charity suggested taking paracetamol to ease the pain.

The charity added exercise will improve osteoarthritis “by strengthening your muscles and tendons, and nourishing the cartilage of your joints”.

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