Magazine article Dance Spirit

Bunions Beware!

Magazine article Dance Spirit

Bunions Beware!

Article excerpt

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS PAINFUL PROBLEM By Kristin Lewis

Every time Jenna takes off her jazz shoes, her dance buds flee the scene. The ghastly sight isn't a gnarly callus or a blister-it's a bunion.

Bunions plague dancers of all disciplines. Bunion pain can be debilitating, making it impossible to balance on demi-pointe, work in pointe shoes or even walk properly. But even if the discomfort is tolerable, bunions can lead to a host of other nuisances like blisters and inflammation. Here's what you need to know about slowing bunion development, controlling the pain and figuring out when surgery's your best bet.

CAUSES

A bunion is a protrusion on the big toe joint, where the metatarsal bone grows away from the rest of the foot, causing the big toe to lean toward the smaller toes. Contrary to myth, dance does not cause bunions. In fact, research suggests that bunions are a hereditary deformity! Certain behaviors associated with dance, however, can cause bunions to develop faster, such as wearing tightfitting shoes (like pointe shoes) and having flexible feet.

ARRESTING BUNION GROWTH

There isn't anything you can do to prevent bunions if you're predisposed, but you can slow their growth. Dr. Lowell Scott Weil, a podiatric surgeon who treats dancers in Chicago, recommends wearing boxy street shoes, rather than tight, pointed shoes; using a bunion splint at night (available at drugstores); and avoiding pointe work before your feet are strong enough.

In the past, orthotics (inserts worn inside a shoe) were thought to help, but a 1993 study conducted on teens and children by podiatrist Dr. Timothy E. Kilmartin found orthotics to be ineffective. Toe spacers can be helpful, but be cautious: "They should work," Dr. Weil explains, "but if you force yourself into a shoe, it aggravates the bunion because it makes your shoe even tighter. …

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