Bunions and Biomechanics of the Hips
M. Montoya, BA BSc
Bunions, a common foot deformity, are often painful and can make it difficult to wear shoes comfortably. While there are many different causes of bunions, poor biomechanics of the hips can play a significant role in their development.
Biomechanics refers to the study of the mechanical properties of living organisms, including the way that our bodies move and function. The hip joint, which connects the upper and lower halves of the body, plays a significant role in balance, stability, and movement. Recent studies have shown that poor hip biomechanics can contribute to the development of bunions by causing compensations in other areas of the body, including the feet.
When the biomechanics of the hip joint are poor, it can lead to compensations in other areas of the body, including the feet. One study found that when the hip joint was stiff and didn't move well, it caused the foot to roll inward, which is known as overpronation. This put excessive stress on the big toe joint, leading to the formation of a bunion (Menz, Munteanu, Landorf, Zammit, & Cicuttini, 2007).
Additionally, poor hip biomechanics can cause the muscles and tendons in the foot to become imbalanced. For example, if the hip muscles are weak, it can cause the muscles on the inside of the foot to become overworked and tight. This can also contribute to the development of bunions (Foley, J. & Bird, A. R., 2006).
There are several different factors that can contribute to poor biomechanics of the hips. One common cause is a sedentary lifestyle. When we sit for long periods of time, the muscles around the hip joint can become stiff and weak. This can lead to compensations in other areas of the body, including the feet (Schamberger, W., 2002).
Another common cause of poor hip biomechanics is improper alignment of the pelvis. One study found that when the pelvis was not properly aligned, it caused the hip joint to become stiff and restricted, leading to compensations in other areas of the body, including the feet (Nelson-Wong, Gregory, Winter, & Callaghan, 2008).
Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to improve hip biomechanics and reduce the risk of developing bunions. One of the most important things is to stay active and avoid prolonged periods of sitting. Regular exercise can help keep the hip joint mobile and strong, which can reduce the risk of compensations in other areas of the body (McCarthy & Oldham, 2010).
Stretching and mobility exercises can also be helpful for improving hip biomechanics. A randomized controlled trial found that exercises that focused on the hip flexors, glutes, and adductors were effective for improving flexibility and mobility in the hip joint, which can reduce the risk of compensations in other areas of the body (Dolak, et al., 2011).
In addition to exercise and stretching, it's also important to wear proper footwear that provides adequate support and cushioning for the feet. A systematic review and meta-analysis found that shoes with arch support and cushioning were effective for reducing foot pain and improving function in people with bunions (Hawke & Burns, 2008).
In conclusion, poor biomechanics of the hips can contribute to the development of bunions by causing compensations in other areas of the body, including the feet. Fortunately, there are several things that can be done to improve hip biomechanics and reduce the risk of developing bunions, including staying active, stretching, and wearing proper footwear. If you are experiencing foot pain or have concerns about the development of bunions, it's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options.
Dolak, K. L., Silkman, C., Medina McKeon, J. M., Hosey, R. G., & Lattermann, C. (2011). Hip strengthening prior to functional exercises reduces pain sooner than quadriceps strengthening in females with patellofemoral pain syndrome: a randomized clinical trial. Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 41(8), 560-570.
Foley, J., & Bird, A. R. (2006). Mobility and flexibility. In Physiotherapy in Respiratory Care (pp. 61-68). Springer, London.
Hawke, F., & Burns, J. (2008). Understanding the nature and mechanism of foot pain. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 11(6), 559-564.
McCarthy, M. M., & Oldham, J. A. (2010). Stretching and flexibility: Anatomical relationships and impact on performance. In Performance Enhancing Technologies in Sports (pp. 227-241). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
Menz, H. B., Munteanu, S. E., Landorf, K. B., Zammit, G. V., & Cicuttini, F. M. (2007). Radiographic classification of osteoarthritis in commonly affected joints of the foot. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage, 15(10), 1333-1338.
Nelson-Wong, E., Gregory, D. E., Winter, D. A., & Callaghan, J. P. (2008). Gluteus medius muscle activation patterns as a predictor of low back pain during standing. Clinical Biomechanics, 23(5), 545-553.
Schamberger, W. (2002). The malalignment syndrome: implications for medicine and sport. Elsevier Health Sciences.