In our dance form, we often describe how “effortless” a dancer looks in her execution when she is dancing at her best. This illusion of effortlessness is created over years and many hours each day and ironically requires tremendous effort to create this illusion; the body needs the flexibility, strength and endurance to perform well.
The demands of dance also means that dancers are at high risk of injuries, thus as a dancer it is important to be aware of the common injuries and how to avoid them.
The Top 5:
According to a study done by the University of Sydney, the 3 most common site of injury was the ankle, followed by the knee, and the hip. In the weeks to come we will be focusing on these 5 common dance injuries:
- Achilles Tendonitis
- Posterior Tibial Tendonitis
- Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Hip Impingement and Snapping/Clicking Hip
- Lower-Back Strain
The Achilles tendon is a fibrous band of tissue that links the muscles in your calf to your heel. The strength and flexibility of this tendon are important in jumps, relevés and pliés, and even in walking. If it becomes inflamed, swollen, and irritated, it is called tendonitis.
Symptoms include pain and/or tightness at the back of the heel, and if left untreated, can lead to a rupture which will require surgery to fix.
What Causes It?
There are many factors that can cause the tendon to be inflamed. While “overuse” is a common reason, it will be helpful to understand what would cause the Achilles Tendon to be overused.
(i) Imbalance in the muscles
If the other muscles in the feet and legs involved in releves, plies etc are underdeveloped, the Achilles Tendon will take on most of the load in these movements.
(ii) Poor Technique
In landing (not placing heels down) during jumps or not rolling through the feet, or lacking the depth and quality of a good plie; adds pressure to the achilles to absorb the shock of the landing
Working the turn out from the feet instead of the hips.
(iii) Anatomical Issues
How do I treat it/prevent it?
If you have experienced pain and tightness at the end of the day or first thing in the morning after your dance class you may wish to visit a doctor familiar with dance related injuries. Most will recommend reduced activity (fewer hours of dance practice) or even complete rest, this will not cure it forever. Working to strengthen the surrounding muscles and also to improve technique will help prevent the injury from recurring or becoming more severe.
Below are some exercises that are great for strengthening the ankles and also for creating better awareness for plies and landing in jumps.
While these exercises are great for any dancer in general, you may need to have a personal trainer to help retrain your body if you have experienced such an injury. At BodyTree Ballet, all our teachers are both dance and pilates trained, and we provide 1-1 sessions to work on each dancer’s specific needs to help them dance injury free.
Exercise: Full Range Rises(2 legs and Single Leg)
Standing on a raised platform or step, have both feet in parallel with heel hanging off the step. Allow gravity to stretch the calves into full dorsiflexion (or flexed ankle).
With an inhale breath, raise the heels to demi-pointe, and on the exhale send heels back down
Perform 20 reps.
Repeat on one leg. Free leg will be place cou-de-pied.
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image credits: medicinenet.com