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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Tips on not reinjuring achilles tendon


ripresa

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Hi all,

 

Earlier this year, my achilles tendon started hurting. It wasn't a terrible pain, no sharp pains, just a mild ache that got worse the more I danced, and since I'm in my thirties, I knew better then to push on when things hurt. I took it easy at dance camp this year, not much jumping, and after that took a break from ballet. After 1.5 months of not dancing, there is no longer any pain upon waking up first thing in the morning.

 

This achilles tendon thing is new, and hopefully it's not just because I'm no longer in my twenties :P

 

Now that the pain is gone, I'm preparing to go back to ballet class... any advice on how to approach this?

 

Is there particular technique flaws that cause ballet dancers to have achilles tendon issues? Something I can be mindful of in class?

 

Thanks in advance.

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Best advice is to see a physiotherapist - one used to dance, or failing that, sports injuries.

 

I have had achilles tendonitis for a bit - caused by rubbing running shoes on my tendon I think! I had a couple of sessions with a lovely PT, who reassured me that the tendon wasn't going to snap or burst. He checked my gait and tested my strength and the way the nerve moved up and down my leg - he did a couple of stretches on me to show me how to stretch out my legs to help the nerve "glide." He also go me to do a few things to make sure I wasn't gripping with my toes when I went up on demi pointe.

 

He prescribed two things: one easy, one really difficult.

 

The easy thing was Alftredson heel drops. Google them - it's a standard post-treatment exercise for tendonitis. BUT SEE A PT FIRST!!!!

 

The hard thing was his prescription to "dance without tension" It's been a matter of training & re-educating my body a bit to ensure I'm using strength without tension. It's really hard for me! But yoga and Pilates help because in those disciplines there's no competitive thing, and it's about working within your body, and working with the breath. Working with my breath is key to everything I find. If I remember to do it!

 

So what I now do regularly:

 

Alfredson heel drops. I can feel the strength developing., although doing them one legged is still tough!

 

I try to be aware of not gripping with my toes: I do a few rises in bare feet each day with my toes spread out and then lift my toes up while I'm on demi pointe, to make sure I'm not using a tense toe grip to stay up there.

 

And doing a bit of very gentle yoga each day to centre my breath and deal with the tension.

 

I also had a fantastic correction from a teacher a few weeks ago which I think if I can apply it thoughtfully will help with reducing tension in ankles and feet: to put weight in my feet, and make my feet on the ground heavy. That was in a ballet class, and talking to the teacher afterwards she said that this would help with my tendency to raise my shoulders & tense up too much in the chest & shoulders.

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Sounds like you had a bit of Achilles tendonitis that got better with just rest. In general any kind of tendonitis is treated with stretching and strengthening the muscle attached to the tendon. If I were you, I would do a search for "achilles tendonitis treatment" on YouTube. I'm sure you can find many exercises you can do on your own. It seems to me that doing exercises used to treat your injury will also help prevent its occurrence.

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I would agree with the general comments above that if there are any technical issues that caused the tendonitis, they must be re-trained, and that strengthening work adequate to the level required for the amount of dancing you are intending to do should be done prior to/along with return to class. As Redbookish said, PT will be most useful if possible!

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Oops! A couple of parents wandered into the Adult Student Forum by mistake, so posts had to be removed.

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The main thrust of all the advice people have been given when dealing with their Achilles is that tightness in the calf is what you need to avoid. Stretching, foam rollering, massage - all help to release tightness in the calf & protect your Achilles.

 

But we can't see you, nor diagnose over the internet, so do please keep in touch with a reliable & understanding physiotherapist!

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