Patients with hallux valgus (HV) frequently present to podiatrists for non-surgical management, with a wide range of concerns including pain, footwear difficulty and quality of life impacts. There is little research evidence guiding podiatrists’ clinical decisions surrounding non-surgical management of HV. Thus practitioners rely largely upon clinical experience and expert opinion. This survey was conducted to determine whether a consensus exists among Australian podiatrists regarding non-surgical treatment of HV, and secondly to explore common presenting concerns and physical examination findings associated with HV.
An online survey was distributed to Australian podiatrists in mid-2013 via the professional association in each state (approximately 1900 members). Podiatrists indicated common treatments recommended, presenting problems and physical examination findings associated with HV in juveniles, adults and older adults. Proportions were calculated to determine the most common responses, and Chi-squared tests were used to examine differences in treatment recommendations according to HV patient age group and podiatrist demographics.
Of 210 survey respondents, 65 % (136) were female and 80 % (168) were private practitioners. Complete survey responses were received from 159 podiatrists for juvenile HV, 146 for adults and 141 for older adults. Seven different non-surgical treatment options were commonly recommended (by >50 % podiatrists), although recommendations differed between adult, older adult and juvenile HV. Common treatments included footwear advice or modification, custom and prefabricated orthotic devices, addition of padding, and muscle strengthening/retraining exercises. Padding was more likely to be utilised in older adults, while exercises were more likely to be prescribed for juveniles. A diverse range of presenting problems and physical examination findings were reported to be associated with HV.
Despite the lack of empirical evidence in this area, there appears to be a consensus among Australian podiatrists regarding non-surgical management of HV, and these recommendations are largely aligned with available clinical consensus documents. Presenting concerns and physical examination findings associated with HV are diverse and have implications for treatment decisions. Management strategies differ across patient age groups, thus any updated clinical guidelines should differentiate between adult and juvenile HV. This study provides useful data to inform clinical practice, education, policy and future research.