Upset Over Your Figure? Some Bodies Really Are Painful

People may not always talk about it, but many in America feel hurt over their body type and physical features.

There's the obvious emotional angst of those whose figures don't compete with those of swimsuit models or Hollywood starlets. But then, there's the actual physical pain.

At least 15 percent of the population has complained of musculoskeletal pain in the last year: more than people with allergies and headaches combined, according to "The Burden of Musculoskeletal Disease in the United States," a publication from the United States Bone and Joint Decade.

Some of this pain comes from injury, but some also occurs as a result of a person's specific body type. If you ask orthopaedists, it turns out that, what we might think makes us beautiful, doesn't help us feel pain-free.


The name "pigeon-toed" probably arose more from the distinctive gait — a bit of a waddle that comes from walking with toes pointed inward — rather than the look of the toes themselves.

A pigeon-toed frame, which appears as toes, as well as knees, pointed inward, frequently occurs in toddlers between 8 and 15 months.

Though children usually outgrow being pigeon-toed, called in-toeing by doctors, the stance can persist or get worse in adulthood, often caused by a rotational twist in the tibia (shin bone) or a twist in the femur (thigh bone) as it connects to the hip.

If the problem worsens, so might the person's pain. The weight of a person who walks with a pigeon-toed frame puts stress on parts of the body not designed to take it.

"The forces on your ankles, on the tendons around your ankles, can cause pain," said Dr. Lonnie Paulos, director of the Texas Sports Medicine Alliance in Houston, Texas. Paulos noted that flat feet, another painful problem, often accompanies a pigeon-toed stance.

If a person's pigeon-toed gait worsens, the kneecap can wear out faster, as well as the joints in the ankles. That wear and tear can cause an early or more severe onset of osteoarthritis.


Funny how the same silhouette can strike feelings of appeal in one sex and feelings of distress in the other.

Big-bosomed women with little waistlines to match often suffer more than inappropriate stares and difficulty when shopping for dresses.

A buxom woman can suffer welts on her shoulders from her bra straps, and running or other aerobics can hurt without the right support. Even sitting still can cause pain for big-breasted women.

"If they are real large, they pull your shoulders forward," Paulos said. "The shoulders, neck and back will hurt."

Female patients accounted for about 60 percent of the health care visits for neck pain in 2004, according to "The Burden of Musculoskeletal Disease in the United States."

Unlike many other forms of pain from body types, there's not much a full-chested woman can do.

"That's the reason why, many years ago, they developed the support bra," Paulos said.

Beyond bras, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that 106,000 women had breast reduction surgery in 2007. In the same year, more than three times that number of women decided to get breast augmentation.

Underweight, Thin Frame

For all the magazine, catalogue, advertisement, movie, talk show, sitcom and self-help hype over being thin, slight people don't have it all — especially when it comes to body types and pain.

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