Foot injuries can occur in almost anyone. From the stay at home mom to the active rock climber, they all have the potential to injure their feet. Dancers are especially prone to foot and ankle injuries. Let’s take a look at some common injuries that a dancer might have and how to avoid those injuries.
Dancers will experience a foot injury at some time during their training and competitions. Professional ballet dancers injure their feet all the time. These injuries vary from mild ones that linger for several years to severe injuries that may be career-ending.
The fact is that many common foot and ankle ‘injuries’ occur as a result of poor foot and ankle muscle strength. The “intrinsic” foot muscles are small little muscles that start and end within the foot. They assist in controlling the position and motion of a dancer’s arch and are accountable for the control of the toes within the shoe en pointe. If these little muscles are not working correctly, larger muscles called the “extrinsic” foot muscles that stem further up the leg become tired and strained. This is because they try to stabilize the foot while still performing their normal functions. This places added strain and work on the these muscles and eventually leads to pain and injury. Common injuries include compartment syndrome or increased pressure within a muscle group, anterior shin splints, stress fractures of the shin bone (tibia), or posterior shin splints. All of these conditions involve the lower leg muscles, bones, and soft tissue structures.
Weakness in the intrinsic foot muscles and overuse of the extrinsic muscles will also lead to the toes pulling backward and becoming claw-like. As a result, blisters may form on the toes of professional ballet dancers and dancers at all levels and ages. These problems can be prevented before they occur. Control of the intrinsic foot muscles allows the middle joint of the toes to stay straight while fully pointing the remainder of the foot. This does not affect the appearance of the line of the foot. However, it does make dancing far more satisfying since there will be no pain.
In numerous other sports, orthotic devices may be used in the shoes required. They will help to stabilize the arch and calm symptoms connected to poor intrinsic muscle strength. Unfortunately, in ballet slippers, these orthotics can not be used. Therefore, the dancer is often told to ‘live with’ the symptoms or have repeated prolonged breaks from dancing. Podiatrists are able to help with various taping techniques and other types of controlling wraps to allow the foot to rest and quickly return to activities. Custom orthotic devices are still recommended to be worn in other daily shoes.
With gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, these injuries can heal quickly and help to avoid injuries or pain in the future. “The Perfect Pointe Book” is a thorough collection of exercises and proper techniques. Check out the ballet blog https://www.theballetblog.com/shop/the-perfect-pointe-book/. Dancers designed these exercises to particularly enhance the foot muscles needed in any ballet dancer. While at first designed to help kids strengthen their feet prior to going onto pointe, this book is important reading for any dancer, especially if they have actually had, or presently have any foot injuries. The exercises have been established after years of working carefully with ballet dancers, and seeing first-hand what is most effective in regaining control of these small muscles.
If you are a career dancer or simply enjoy dancing when out for the evening you should be aware of these injuries. Orthotics and strengthening exercises can be just the thing that you need to keep your feet free from injury. Contact Podiatrist Jairo Cruz Jr, DPM today by calling his Brandon office at (813) 502-5904 and Zephyrhills office at (813)782-3233