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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Achilles Tendon Questions

Guest haylee

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Guest Shdwdrgn

Sorry I didn't get back last week... You know how it goes.


I wanted to mention something else I have discovered with this 'issue'. One of the stretches I like to do is to sit on the floor with my knees forward and my toes pointed behind me and the top of my foot flat on the floor (basically sitting on my feet). I generally only do this on carpet because a hard floor just hurts too much. Anyway while sitting in this position, I will slowly lay back until my hands touch the floor behind me, then I try to lower myself as far back as possible. This seems to stretch both my upper legs and my heels and feels pretty good. However I have not been able to do this at all since my ankle started hurting, as just this sitting position is painful. Last night, thinking about the possibility that I just needed to stretch something out, I decided to try this again. Yes it was painful, however it did seem to have some effect in loosening up my ankle. Of course today it hurts again (but no more than before). I don't know... is this a good sign and a possible path for stretching the right things?


As for the possibility of Dancer's Heel... my class just isn't doing anything that difficult. We certainly aren't doing any pointe work, there is no rapid or fast movements we're making (I think the quickest movement we ever have to make is in practicing to get one full turn in a pirouette). We've done some jumping, and of course I've had a few bad landings, but nothing that I limped away from.


Lampwick - releves don't exactly hurt, but they do press into the same area that is hurting. I can still do releve and sou sou during class without difficulty. I can even (attempt to) balance on the ball of one foot. The specific thing I was referring to is this... If you point your foot down so it's directly in-line with your leg, then take your fingers and press upwards into the bottom of the heel towards the leg. That is what hurts. Not something I encounter during dance practice, but it is the easiest thing to reproduce.


As for my calf muscles... I started doing leg stretches at night to relieve calf cramps and restless-leg syndrome. Since starting the stretches I have had neither. Without any special practice, I can walk around the house for over 20 minutes on my tip-toes without straining (at which point my wife pushed me over and told me to quit showing off :) ). I very naturally walk on my toes and have to make an effort to remember to walk on my heels more to keep from bouncing while I walk. This was one of the reasons why I thought ballet might be a good match for me, and I've found that I really enjoy any moves we perform which puts me on my toes. I've had solid calf muscles all my life, and there has been no indication of problems with them, although they are getting stronger.


Oh I forgot to mention... the calf stretch that lampwick linked to. I actually do that stretch a few times during our 90-minute classes. I also do them outside of class now and then when I think of it.

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Victoria Leigh

Shdwdrgn, I STRONGLY suggest that you STOP walking around on your toes! The work you do on demi pointe is one thing, walking around for 20 minutes on your toes is another, and it's not a good thing for your achilles tendons! :) If you have done that for years, and especially as a child, that is the reason for the tight achilles and any pain you might have in that area. Start putting your heels down and really using your demi plié in everything in class, and stretch those calves out MANY times during the day.

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The conventional wisdom having to do with Achilles injuries is to strengthen and stretch the calf muscles. The other thing is the time factor. Achilles injuries are notorious for taking a long time to repair. Also strengthening and increasing elasticity to any noticeable degree takes 3-4 times longer than the typical person expects. Persistence and patience I think are the only cures.

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  • 3 years later...

So, I was always taught to relax the achilles tendon when standing en pointe. However, I have noticed that when my foot is pointed, and the achilles tendon is relaxed, it also relaxes my whole entire calf muscle.

How do I work the muscles in the shin without over-working the achilles tendon?

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Victoria Leigh

Ginnia, there is no way to have the foot fully pointed, much less stand on pointe, without the achilles tendon being activated. That does not mean it is being overworked. It has to work, or you can't dance.

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