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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Injury - Toe injury: what could it be and how to heal?


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I have started dancing about a year ago with no previous dance training. I have played many sports, but have never had a serious injury.


During dance class I went up to demi pointe and felt a pop in my fourth toe - it's happened before (it was bruised), but this time it got massively swollen, I couldn't bend the last joint and now two months later, I still can't put weight on it! If I try to move it around, it feels like it locks and then if I move it with my fingers, it cracks (like a knuckle crack) and it HURTS! I got an x-ray done and saw a podiatrist and no broken toe. They only prescribed ibuprofen and that was it. Obviously there's some soft tissue issue going on and I don't know how much longer this can take, or how serious it is.


Has anyone had a similar issue? Can you recommend tips for helping heal (I did the RICE and massage - it only made it swell), and when or if I should carefully go back to dance? Such a strange injury!


Thank you!

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If it's been two months and you can't stand on it, I'd say it's past time to go back to a doctor. Ideally you'll find someone who has experience treating dancers; if not, a sports medicine physician or an orthopaedic doctor is a good alternative.


In the mean time, stop trying to test it. The swelling and pain are signs from your body that the area needs to be protected, not moved around or manipulated. As far as I understand it, RICE is generally safe (but note there's no M for massage in RICE). And don't worry about coming back to dance until you've figured out what's really going on!

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I agree with Gav, it needs more investigation and if it isn't healing then it may need more rest... Unfortunately sometimes the most tiny injuries take the longest to heal! I had a trauma to my big toe from ballet (landed on my foot jumping), thought it was broken, had x-rays, nothing there etc. Turned out to be a related soft tissue injury that needed 8-12 weeks to heal including 2 weeks completely non-weight bearing. If you can't weight bear, ask your doctor if you need crutches or a walking boot or something similar to really get the weight off and let it repair itself. It may also need strapping or isolating to reduce movement. I wouldn't massage until you know exactly what is happening - it may need it at some point but wait until a professional tells you to do it if there is trauma in the area.


The good news is, there are lots of things you can do that are ballet related that don't involve weight bearing, so you can keep in shape while it is healing. Once you get a diagnosis you should investigate some things like floor barre, working on a fitball, pilates mat work - there are lots of things you can do while you rehab and you might even find you get stronger while you're "resting" (I know I actually did!)

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In my experience, soft tissue injuries take far longer than bones to mend. Very frustrating, but you need to keep off it, and see a doctor.

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  • 6 months later...

Hi everyone,


I want to thank you for your replies. I got an MRI and everything, and everything looked fine!! It was so frustrating to hear to just rest. Well, I did about a month and slowly started to use it again. It took about another two months before it was almost better, but now almost 10 months, the pain isn't entirely gone. Not anything that hinders movement or even bothers me when using it, but at the end of the day I can definitely tell my tootsie is tired. Trying to do toe exercises to strengthen them and I think it has helped.


Thanks again!

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