Is that bump on your toe really a bunion?

A common question or presentation we get at the clinic is “I have this bump on the side of my big toe that is causing me pain, I think I have a bunion”.

However, when we assess the foot it a completely different story!

What is causing that bump?

Hallux limitus/rigidus is a condition affecting the big toe joint (1st metatarsophalangeal joint) and it is a form of degenerative arthritis – degeneration of the cartilage/articular surface of the big toe joint.

A common presentation of hallux limitus/rigidus is the enlargement and/or a ‘growth’ at the big toe joint. This growth is due to arthritic changes occurring at the joint and hence osseous bone spurring occurs. People commonly mistaken this bump for being a ‘bunion’, although similar, both pathologies are very different.

Some common causes of hallux limitus/rigidus include;

  • Repetitive stress on the big toe joint
  • Inflammatory diseases – gout or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Trauma – stubbing or kick your toe
  • Foot type – excessive pronation

Symptoms of hallux limitus/rigidus:

  • Pain and stiffness of the big toe joint
  • Swelling and inflammation of the joint
  • Enlargement of the big toe joint (can be on top or the side of the joint)
  • Difficulty wearing shoes or difficulty walking and performing activities


The sooner the better! With this condition, it is easier to treat with conservative treatment during its’ earlier stages. Therefore, if you start noticing the ‘bump’ or stiffness in your big toe, see your podiatrist early.

Usually the following treatments are used for hallux limitus/rigidus

  • Exercises and mobility – during the earlier stages, maintaining the big toe’s range of motion is key, so we will give you some exercises to maintain the range of motion in the joint
  • Footwear education – making sure you are wearing the appropriate shoes for your activities + appropriate shoes to reduce any excess pressure at your big toe joint
  • Custom orthotic therapy – prescription of an orthotic which will be placed in your shoe to help reduce the stress and pressure at your big toe joint
  • Injections – if your pain is severe, we can offer you a range of injections including corticosteroid or prolotherapy injections
  • Surgical referral – Our podiatrist can assess your condition and if severe enough appropriate surgical referral may be required.

Call our Moorebank office on (02) 9601 6886 to arrange an appointment to help you with your big toe pain.

Sydney Foot Clinic at Moorebank services all surrounding areas including, Liverpool, Hammondville, Milperra, Georges fair, Holsworthy, Revesby and Wattle Grove.


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