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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Pain in the butterfly stretch?

Guest plain-dancer

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Guest plain-dancer

So, I've read enough here to see that the frog stretch is a bad idea, and I've been steering clear of that. But I've noticed when I am doing the butterfly stretch, even not forcing it at all (ie not pressing on my thighs), just sitting with my feet together, knees out, and letting them hang, that I have pain in my left knee. Incidentally, that's the leg that goes lower naturally by itself--it almost touches the floor It seems like such a simple stretch that I wouldn't imagine I could be doing anything wrong technique-wise. Is this common?


I know you're not doctors here but I was wondering if anyone else has experienced this, or has an idea what it could be. I'm being careful - the last thing I want this early in my come-back is an injury. It seems to go away if I prop it up with a bit of towel - I thought that way I could at least keep stretching the right side. The fact that the towel helps worried me too, though, if my leg naturally stretches that low, then why the pain?


Could I be doing something wrong? Any ideas?

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Someone else may (or may not) have specifics for you but a pretty general golden rule is: If it hurts your knees at all STOP! The knee joint is so screwy and easily screwed up that you just don't want to mess with it.

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Dido is, of course, right, so let's try this as a diagnostic and find out something more.


Sit on the floor with the legs in front of you, and your back straight. Take the right leg and put it into the retiré position, then note how it feels. Put the leg back in place. Repeat with the left leg. Notice anything?

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Guest plain-dancer

Thank you Dido. Yes, I know to stop when it hurts. I'm very protective of my knees. :P


Mr. Johnson, I tried your suggestion. I didn't notice anything funny...no pain, at least. I tried the butterfly again and my knee still felt a little tender, though less immediately painful. I was being very gentle with it.


I have a grumpy feeling that this may be related to "Patello-Femoral Syndrome" which I had when I was a young teen. The doctor said that I grew too fast (4 1/2 inches in one year) and the growth had created an imbalance in my leg muscles which pulled the kneecap off track. I supposedly corrected the problem with physical therapy --which, interestingly consisted mostly of hamstring type stretching and plie-like exercises. I'd been hoping that maybe there was something else that it could be, something I have more control over, like technique. I'd hate to think my old enemy was coming back after six years. :blushing: A little denial, maybe.


Thank you very much for your attention, though. I'll be keeping an eye on it and in the mean time be making friends with Mr. Rolled-up-towel. The name, what with the "syndrome" word and all, sounds dreadful, but it is supposedly amazingly common. Has anyone heard of it or danced with it and had it not be a problem? :)

Edited by plain-dancer
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Aha! So, if you've got a history of PFS, this indeed could be a "blast from the past"! It could even be the result of a barely-noticed bump to the side of the knee, like on a low kitchen cabinet door, or something. Try the butterfly with the feet pointed, and see if that makes any difference. Get back to us on this.

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Guest plain-dancer

Wow, Mr. Johnson -- I had never ever tried this stretch with pointed feet - I always placed the soles of my feet together. Tonight while stretching I tried your suggestion, and not only was there no feeling of tension on the knee, but I was able to lean further over the stretch. Wonderful! Thank you so much!


I've been telling myself I should pick up a good anatomy book for a while, and now I will. I'm fascinated by how something so small could make such a difference. :offtopic:

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When the feet point, the connective tissues in the calf and shin act to support the knee, so it won't hurt. I've found that this way of doing the "modified butterfly" can be helpful to people experiencing knee stresses in that position. I hope it works for you! :offtopic:

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I like it better that way too, mainly because they the feet are not sickled, but also because I get a better stretch. :offtopic:

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