Dance Injury 101: Achilles Tendonitis
Reviewed by Elaine Winslow-Redmond, MS, ATC, EMT, Rockettes' Director of Athletic Training and Wellness
Tendonitis is an overuse injury resulting in inflammation of a tendon, a cord of fibrous tissue that connects muscle to bone. The Achilles tendon, located on the back of the lower leg where it attaches the calf muscles to the heel bone, is a very common injury for dancers.
Because dancers balance on their toes or the ball of the foot, the constant contraction of the calf muscle and tightness in the calf places stress on the Achilles tendon. (Other factors that can contribute to this injury, such as improper landings from jumps, poor dance flooring or something as simple as pointe shoe ribbons tied too tight.) Whether you have Achilles tendonitis or are looking to prevent this infamous injury, here are a few recommendations:
What to do:
- Seek medical advice
- Reduce inflammation with ice
- Restrict your activity until you can walk without any pain
How to treat:
Once your initial symptoms have subsided and you can walk pain-free, begin adding strengthening and stretching exercises, followed by a gradual return to activity. We recommend the following plan:
- Perform an active warm-up, like the “ankle alphabet.”
- Apply moist heat on affected area if possible.
- Add strengthening and stretching exercises, including double leg relevé with single leg lowering, calf stretching and heel walking.
- Ice post-activity: Ice massage directly on Achilles for five minutes, or put your foot in an ice bucket for 10 minutes.
- Be sure to add an active, dynamic warm-up to your routine.
- Be especially conscientious of your technique. Press your heels to the floor when you land from a jump and watch your foot alignment, especially in turnout.
- Have a professional check your feet. Do you pronate? If so, consider adding arch support to your dance shoes.
- Wear shoes that fit properly and are not too tight especially at the heel. Make sure you are dancing on a dance floor that has some give whenever possible.
- Stretch and release the calf muscles when you are warmed up after class.
- Ice post-activity.