Ballet is an excellent way to stay in shape and dance with a purpose. However, it takes a lot of hard work and discipline, both of which can lead to overtraining and injury. You’re especially prone to foot and ankle injuries when you’re involved in ballet because of the specialized footwork you need to perform.
Dr. Jefferey E. McAlister is a foot and ankle specialist located in the Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona communities. Dr. McAlister and his team at Phoenix Foot and Ankle Institute get you the specialized treatment you need when you’re suffering from a ballet injury.
Any form of dance can ultimately cause injuries to any part of your body, but ballet dancing is a special case. This is due to the pointe technique that’s traditional in ballet dancing.
This technique is performed when your feet are completely extended, leading to all of your weight essentially being placed on your toes. This is a tough technique to master, and often causes pain and injuries to both your feet and ankles.
There are special shoes, called pointe shoes, that are designed to fit your feet when dancing on pointe. These shoes have layers of fabric, cardboard, and other materials to help support your body weight on your toes.
It takes years to strengthen your feet, ankles, and body before you begin dancing with the pointe technique. It’s also not started until the bones in your feet have hardened, usually between the ages of 8 and 14.
Injuries can occur in ballet whether you’re dancing on pointe or not. It’s a vigorous type of dance that depends on proper training and strength in your legs and body.
There are a number of injuries that occur with ballet, with some of the more common types including:
The repeated pressure and stress placed on your feet during ballet leads to stress fractures. Jumping and landing is a large part of ballet, which also puts excess stress on your feet and toes. This is especially true when dancing on pointe, and these fractures are sometimes referred to as dancer’s fractures.
A large part of dance is your footwork, especially in ballet. Your ankles need to support your body, which puts excess strain on your ligaments and tendons. This causes sprained ankles in some cases, leading to pain and swelling.
Your achilles tendon runs from the back of your heel to your calf and is crucial when dancing ballet. However, repeated stress on this tendon causes inflammation, leading to achilles tendinitis.
The plantar fascia is the tissue located on the bottom of your foot, stretching from your toes to your heels. This tissue is used a lot during ballet, especially when dancing on pointe. Overuse of the plantar fascia leads to inflammation and a condition called plantar fasciitis. This leads to pain in your feet and heel.
This condition is brought on with overuse of the ball of your foot. This causes intense pain and inflammation in that area, and is very common with ballet dancing.
Dancing on pointe in ballet sometimes causes hallux rigidus, an injury to the joint of the big toe. Not only does it cause pain, but hallux rigidus makes it extremely difficult to move your big toe at all.
Long-term overuse of your ankle also leads to ankle arthritis. This is the breakdown of the cartilage and protective tissues in the ankle joint. Inflammation and pain are common in ankle arthritis, which makes it difficult to keep dancing without treatment.
You don’t have to hang up your ballet shoes for fear of injury; there are plenty of ways you can keep your feet and ankles safe. Dr. McAlister offers prevention tips to keep you on the recital stage, including:
While it’s still possible to injure yourself even with these tips, the chances are much smaller than if you didn’t take care of your body. Dr. McAlister helps you recover from an injury, and is there every step of the way as you integrate yourself back into ballet.
If you’re a dancer and suffering from a foot or ankle injury, call us at 602-761-7819 to schedule a consultation with Dr. McAlister, or book an appointment online with us today.