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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Sore Achilles tendons. Anything I can do?


pinkpointe

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I've returned to ballet after more than a decade away and so far I'm loving every minute! I just can't get enough! Anyway, a quick question to others who have this issue. I find that my Achilles' tendons get sore after every class. I'm pretty sure my technique is fine (no lifted heels in plié or popping up for jumps or anything like that. I'm pretty attentive about alignment and positioning). I don't think it's tendinitis either. It seems like I'm just not used to pointing my foot as much and relevé-ing. I mean most of your adult life doesn't get spent doing these specific things even if you're active, go to the gym or do yoga so it makes sense.

 

Anyone have any suggestions for ways to minimize this or exercises to do daily to strengthen? Am I the only one?

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Welcome to Ballet Talk for Dancers, pinkpointe!!!

 

A few things pop to mind:

Weight placement too far back in your heels

Needing to stretch more through the ankles

Tight hammies and calves that may need rolling out before and after classes

 

If this keeps up you will need to see a doctor. Pain in the Achilles is not something to fool around with. :(

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Clara gave excellent advice. To add on, if you are returning to dance sometimes the Achilles shorten especially if one wears heels frequently. Although, IME even if this is the case you should not be feeling this after class if one is using proper technique and has a good teacher as the Achilles should warm up during bar.

 

So I would investigate your technique. But moreover, overall tightness could be an issue. Definitely start stretching your Achilles daily, you can google stretches, simply using the stairs to stretch or invest in Therabands and there are multiple stretches and stregthening exercises you can do. There is an excellent book called "Daily Conditioning for Dancers" which provides exercises using Therabands that stretch and strengthen. You may want to incorporate some Pilates classes for a few months to condition, strengthen and loosen your muscles. If this is something you can afford, it certainly does give an excellent ROI, however look for classes taught at dance studios or Pilates schools where the instructors have a background in dance and are certified in Pilates, avoid those classes taught in gyms and health clubs as they are frequently a water downed version of Pilates led by instructors who do not offer much in the way of individual corrections because posture is crucial in Pilates and very easy to cheat and go unnoticed in.

 

Also, the longer you dance your muscles should overall loosen up. Sometimes, after returning to dance some people stiffen their body out of nervousness, so do a double check before each exercise to make sure you are lose and relaxed. One of my Ballet teachers alway reminds us before each exercise "easy does it, relax into it" just that tiny reminder makes a huge difference.

 

If after a month of stretching you Achilles you still have pain I agree with Clara, this could be a sign of a problem so please see an orthopedic doctor who specializes in feet and ankles or a podiatrist.

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While the Achilles does not actually shorten, it might tighten when one is not dancing for a long time, and that is why Clara 76 talked about rolling out the calf and hamstring muscles. I would say especially the calf muscles. And be sure and stretch out the calves and work the feet with a theraband before classes, as well as daily. For rolling out the muscles one can use a foam roller, or even an old fashioned rolling pin!

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Thanks for the input everyone! It's greatly appreciated. Just to clarify, I don't get sore right after class but more like next morning after I wake up and/or beginning class. It's fine after I've warmed up. Will definitely try rolling out and see what that does. Hopefully it's something that subsides with time and practice.

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Ah so you get residual pain..... I am one of those who also experiences latent pain. As much as I hate to admit it, ice, ice, ice. It really does make a difference!

 

So go forward with the advice here- roll out the possible offending muscles, eat right, sleep right, check placement, stretch ankles, and ice when you're all done for the day!! If it keeps up- see a doc!!

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I'll work on rolling out hamstrings and calf muscles. On another related note. I've read mixed things about touching the actual Achilles tendon area. Read some good things about massaging it but also so conflicting info saying it's not good.

 

The positive articles basically suggest that massaging increases blood flow to an area which doesn't usually get that much blood flow thus increasing the body's ability to fix any injuries. Any thoughts?

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Not a medical adviser here, however, in my experience, massaging the calf muscle, just above where the Achilles attaches, is a good thing. Massaging the tendon itself, maybe not so good. That is my opinion and experience, but again, I am not a medical person. I have had serious Achilles problems in my dancing life, and I believe that one is better off not messing with it aside from ice. It gets enough stress and strain from everything ballet.

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I have had (what sounds to be) this exact problem. I as usual went off to my physio which I recommend. Apparently Achilles tendinitis is v common amongst us as we get older. As others have said, this shouldn't be mucked with because if it goes bad, it goes really bad! My treatment consisted of stretching and strengthening which helped but it is a persistent problem that comes and goes. It is exacerbated for me by my supinated feet. Basically my advice is go find out why it is happening so you don't waste time with the wrong treatment and self management.

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I don't get sore right after class but more like next morning after I wake up and/or beginning class.

This really sounds like a typical after effect of unaccustomed exertion or muscle use, rather than an injury or damage -- isn't there something about a lactic build up in the muscle? A buy product of the blood-oxygen exchange of exercise.

 

My response would be stretch, stretch, stretch. But gently! And walking, rolling through the foot fully and mindfully, is always good.

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That's an interesting point redbookish. I guess I never thought of tendons as the same as muscles in the sense of post workout soreness. I'm accustomed to muscle soreness and/or lactic acid buildup but not for tendons. Does lactic acid also build up in tendons too? Sorry in advance if this sounds terribly novice of a question! lol!

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I had this problem when I first came back. Stretch stretch stretch. Another thing I did when it was bad was take ballet class in a jazz shoe. Sanscha makes a jazz shoe called Tivoli. It is very soft and flexible, just like a ballet slipper, points beautifully, has a small suede sole at the ball of the foot, just like a ballet slipper but has a tiny heel. This tiny heel relieved some of the pain on the bad days.

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Chronic Achilles issues here -- usually aggravated by life outside of dance! The problem for me is more muscle imbalances causing me to overexert the Achilles when not in class, so when I can take the muscle-balancing hour a day to do the regimen I need to, I'm fine. It's when I can't keep that up that I end up having to treat the symptoms. As others have said, ice, ice, ice! I also rest (to the best of my ability) when they are sore; stretch when they are not; massage the feet and calves (but not on the Achilles areas themselves).

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

 

You really should get checked out by a health practitioner.

There is a big difference between Achilles tendinitis and Achilles tendinopathy. Tendinitis is an inflammatory condition and the pain is felt just above the heel and the pain normally subsides when the tendon becomes 'warm'. Tendinopathy is a degenerative and micro tearing condition of the tendon caused by overuse and repetitive strain activities.

With tendinopathy it is not advisable to use ice - you should use heat. As we can't tell what condition you have using Ice may be harmful. There is research showing that icing is causing more harm than good for a lot of injuries especially in tendons which aren't highly vascular structures and then using ice is further preventing blood flow and delaying tissue healing.

But generally in both conditions eccentric exercises are helpful- under guidance from a physical therapist/pod. Massage helps with promoting circulation, decreasing waste products etc. if there are active trigger points in soleus and gastroc muscles these can be addressed with dry needling/ foam roller massage. I find rock tape to be very effective too.

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