Shopping for shoes is often a task many take for granted.
For Kristen Green, a recent outing for a new pair of tennis shoes was the happiest day of her life.
“I never thought that it would be possible where I could wear cute sneakers,” the Valparaiso resident said.
That’s because a bunion that the 33-year-old had developed 20 years earlier had become so painful, her quality of life was suffering.
“The pain was constant,” she said. “It was like a toothache. It’s the first thing you think about when you wake up every day.”
In November, Green underwent a Mini TightRope procedure at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush. Unlike traditional bunion surgery, this method uses a FiberWire device to correct the bone deformity without the need for bone removal or cutting.
Though the recovery was difficult for her, she says it was worth it.
“It’s been pretty awesome not waking up thinking about my foot,” Green said.
Foot problems are common among men and women, with a recent survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association showing nearly 77 percent of Americans experience foot pain.
Dr. George Holmes, a foot and ankle surgeon with Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush who performed the procedure on Green, says he sees bunion patients every day.
“It’s a huge condition, especially among women,” he said.
It’s estimated that nearly a quarter of adults age 18 to 65 suffer from bunions. As the population ages, more than a third of those older than 65 have the bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of the big toe.
Though surgical correction remains the solution for some, technological advances such as the Mini TightRope procedure are providing less-invasive options.
The procedure uses special suture material called FiberWire to pull bones in the big toe and second toe into alignment. After Green’s procedure, she wore a walking boot for several weeks.
At Friendly Foot Care in Crown Point, Dr. Michael Nirenberg is also using advanced technology to help alleviate patients’ foot and ankle pain.
“Foot and ankle pain is not normal, and you do not have to live with it,” Nirenberg said.
Pain in the heel can be caused by a spur or ligament irritation called plantar fasciitis.
“Sometimes foot pain in the heel starts with the very first step out of bed,” he said. “The pain may be sharp or stabbing, and it causes people to limp.”
When people experience pain in the foot or ankle, their level of activity typically declines.
“The sooner foot or ankle pain is gone, the sooner people can get back to the activities they enjoy and help to keep them in shape,” Nirenberg said.
To treat plantar fasciitis and help alleviate heel pain, Nirenberg uses a tiny, powerful camera called an endoscopic camera. Through a small opening he makes at the side of the patient’s heel, he slips the camera inside, along with a tiny, specialized instrument that addresses the problem — usually a thickened ligament.
He also uses the high-tech camera to help reduce painful arthritis in the ankle.
“Many people believe nothing can be done for arthritis, but this is not true,” Nirenberg said. “Often we can remove painful arthritis from the ankle.”
This is done through using a tiny camera with a different micro-instrument to enter the ankle joint and “clean out” the arthritis, he said.
“It is really revolutionary,” Nirenberg said. “Through a tiny incision, so much can be done to help people nowadays.”