Bunions … They’re not something you talk about very often. In fact, I’ve never talked about bunions before … until last week. Since I have EXTRA, EXTRA, EXTRA wide feet, size EEE to be exact, I never had any reason to talk about bunions. The most annoying problem I have with my feet is finding stylish shoes that don’t cut off circulation to my toes.
So like anybody with a smart phone, I googled the topic and learned that bunions are boney growths on your feet, most often commonly affecting the inner foot at the base of the big toe. Bunions get their start when the big toe starts to overlap the next toe, affecting the foot’s range of motion.
Like me, you may be wondering what causes bunions. Contrary to popular belief dancing does not cause bunions (although it can increase their development). While doctors can’t pinpoint specifically what causes them, they can say that it’s due to genetics.
Unfortunately, there isn’t anything you can do to prevent bunions if you’re predisposed because of family history. But there’s good news … there are several simple steps your dancers can take to slow the progression of this condition, including maintaining a healthy weight, wearing shoes with proper width and arch support and avoiding pointe work until your dancer’s feet are strong enough. At our studio, some of our younger dancers are taking pre-pointe classes to strengthen their feet in preparation for taking pointe class when they are around 12 years old.
So what if your dancer has done all the right things and bunions still develop due to family history, how do you treat them? There are several remedies you can try:
• Use shoe inserts to help position the foot correctly. These can be over-the-counter arch supports or prescription orthotic devices.
• Wear a bunion splint at night.
• Wear toe separators to keep toes from touching. But these only work if you wear wider shoes so your toes aren’t crammed.
• Take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to alleviate pain.
• Use Vaseline and lamb’s wool in your shoes to ease discomfort of blisters.
• Massage upwards with ice to reduce swelling.
• Tape the foot to hold the big toe in place. If you know Ms Mariah well, you know that she always has tape within arm’s reach.
So you’ve tried multiple remedies and your dancer is still in excruciating pain. What’s next? Well, then it’s time to consider surgery. Surgery involves breaking the bone and repositioning it to where it’s supposed to be. After the procedure, your dancer should be able to walk out of the doctor’s office; amazingly no casts or crutches are needed. But there’s still a lengthy recuperation period. The first week, your dancer may walk or stand for brief periods of time. Then intense physical therapy begins week two to rebuild strength and range of motion. It could take 2-4 months before your dancer is able to return to dancing.
While this surgery sounds scary, I’ve heard that people who have had this procedure done no longer have bunion pain. And most of the time, bunions do not return. In fact, Ms Mariah had both her feet repaired when she was in elementary school and to this day, she has no complains of pain from the surgery nor have the bunions returned.
Ms Mariah is a wealth of knowledge on foot care so be sure to ask her any questions you have regarding your dancers feet.
Bottom line, your dancer needs to take good care of his/her feet so they can continue to dance their way through life.