The underside of dance
We tend to think of dancing as art, fun, expressive, amazing, and while it certainly merits the description, defining dancing as an athletic event typically falls low on the list. The rhythmic pounding, toe tapping, leaping, and twirling levy just as much grind, if not more, on dancers’ feet as a professional athlete.
Eighty-five percent of professional dancers endure dance related injuries, and over 50 percent of injuries occur in the foot or ankle. On the ballroom dance scene, foot pain is simply a fact of life. Fortunately, there’s an entire arsenal of preventative measures to keep you light on your feet. Once your wheels feel a little flat, the first thing to do is attempt to identify the problem.
Four common dance injuries
1. Big toe pain. Hallux rigidus manifests as pain and stiffness, making the big toe difficult to bend. Hallux is the medical term for the big toe. The contortions dancers put their feet through can lead to precursor structural abnormalities for osteoarthritis in the hallux joint. Treatment can range from simply modifying footwear, to surgery.
2. Heel pain and flat feet. In dancers, discomfort in the bottom of the foot, close to the heel, is typically caused by plantar fasciitis, an irritation of the ligament connecting the heel to the toes. Since the plantar fascia ligament also supports the arch of the foot, this condition can also lead to flat feet. Treatment is typically therapeutic (rest, physical therapy, new shoes) and surgery is rarely necessary. Tender ball of the foot. The amount of time dancers spend on their pivot points can lead to metatarsalgia, or inflammation in the balls of the feet. Rest, doctor prescribed stretching, and orthotics are some of the ways podiatrists treat metatarsalgia.
3. Tender ball of the foot. The amount of time dancers spend on their pivot points can lead to metatarsalgia, or inflammation in the balls of the feet. Rest, doctor prescribed stretching, and orthotics are some of the ways podiatrists treat metatarsalgia.
4. Posterior-ankle impingement syndrome. Also known as “athlete’s ankle,” the repetitive flexing of a ballet dancer’s feet can makes them prone to soft tissues getting in the way of the foot’s bone movement. Surgery is usually only considered after more conservative treatments are attempted.
Tips from the dance world
Foot pain and dancing might be mutually inclusive, however, as you might imagine, professional dancers have come up with some ways to keep their toes tapping.
Too tight shoes. Cramped toes are a problem all on their own, but they can also hinder your dancing. One method of expanding your favorite dance shoes is to insert plastic bags containing water into the toes of your shoes, then freeze them. The expansion of the freezing H20 also stretches the shoe, giving you a little extra wiggle room.
Painful high heels. This one will make you feel like a real pro. If wearing heels causes pain in the balls of your feet, try taping the third and fourth toes together with medical tape.
Foot cramps. These painful muscle contractions caused by fatigue and dehydration can often be prevented by hydrating properly, and taking a magnesium supplement.
Your feet affect your entire body
Podiatrists understand that the conditions of your feet can rattle the knees, hips, spine, and core musculature. It’s important to understand exactly how your dancing and dance injuries translate to your overall mobility. Dr. Nina Coletta is an expert at determining the best course of treatment for your individual feet and skeletal structure. If you’re ready to get back out on that dance floor call Dr. Nina today!