Healthy feet and ankles give us the freedom not just to complete our daily tasks with ease, but to pursue our interests and hobbies with fervor. The team at Foot & Ankle Surgical Associates (FASA) continues their mission to improve the quality of life for all members of our community by offering best care advice to our local dancers and their families.
We are moved to dance for many reasons. Sometimes it is for our health or for performance and sometimes it is simply for fun. Dance can be ceremonial, competitive or just an unforgettable social experience. Whether you are experienced or just beginning, young in years or young at heart, FASA wants to keep your feet and ankles strong and healthy, and in good working order. Dr. Kevin Lind, DPM, FACFAS, helps us understand not only how to recognize and care for suspected injuries in the feet and ankles, but how to prevent future injury as well.
Foot and Ankle Injuries Common among Dancers
No matter what form of dancing you pursue, the movements can wear on the lower extremities. Repetition, the root of every overuse injury, is an essential element of learning new steps and sequences and transferring them to muscle memory. Dancing also pushes our bodies to expand their range and definition of normal movement. Sometimes the speed of transitions between these movements can lead to unforeseen injury.
“Over 50 percent of dance injuries occur in the foot and ankle,” says Lind. “The severity of the damage is determined by a patient’s age, strength, flexibility and the type of shoes worn when dancing.”
According to Lind, the most common injuries incurred by dancers include:
- Foot Neuromas: thickening of the nerve tissue in the ball of the foot that leads to painful irritation of the nerves, often resulting from repetitive pivoting
- Tendonitis: inflammation of the tendons in the foot and ankle, often the result of over exertion
- Stress Fractures: hairline breaks in the bone, the result of repeated jumping and landing
- Shin Splints: pain and swelling in the front of the lower legs, which develop and are aggravated by recurring activities, such as dancing
- Corns, Calluses or Blisters: all of which are painful skin irritations that occur when anything (usually your shoes) repeatedly rubs the skin of your foot
Dancers can also experience sudden, acute injuries from chronic injuries left untreated, falls and impacts with other dancers, or props on stage.
Who is at Risk?
New and younger dancers who spend the majority of their practice time learning unfamiliar routines, steps, and movements are at an increased risk of injury. However, all dancers are vulnerable to injury due to the nature of the sport. Dancing challenges both our aerobic limits and muscular strength, which lead to fatigue. When you are tired, technique and posture are impacted. When your form fails, the possibility of injury increases. Dancers unfamiliar with their personal level of fitness are also at an increased risk of injury. Moving on to advanced steps before the basics have been mastered or over-training can be detrimental to a dancer’s progress.
What to Do if You Suspect an Injury
Prompt medical attention by a foot and ankle surgeon can make all the difference in promoting proper rehabilitation when injuries occur or are suspected.
“Many people dispel foot pain if they can walk on the foot,” Lind says, “but it is important to remember it is possible to walk on a seriously injured foot. Most dance injuries can be treated with conservative care as long as they are addressed early and not ignored. Plus, common injuries, if left untreated, may require surgical intervention to ensure proper healing.”
Follow these steps if you suspect an injury while dancing:
- Inform your instructor or lead member (if you have one)
- Call your doctor
While many soft tissue injuries, such as sprains, strains, and bruises, can be treated with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, simple first aid measures won’t always be enough. A FASA specialist can offer a proper diagnosis and plan of treatment specific to your individual needs. They will be able to determine whether you can dance through your injury with modifications or if time off is necessary for complete healing.
How to Prevent Injuries Now and in the Future
“The best defense to injury is prevention,” Lind shares. “Dancers should wear appropriate shoes to properly support their feet and ankles as well as perform dance moves with their individual skill levels in mind.”
Other practices to prevent injury include:
- Stay hydrated before, during, and after you dance. Your body cannot perform at its best if you aren’t hydrated. Water keeps your joints healthy and increases your endurance.
- Allow your feet and ankles to prepare for dance with gentle stretches and movements as part of both a warm-up and cool-down routine.
- Rest between sessions, especially if you are new. Keeping your entire body in its best shape and resting muscles will allow them to better work and avoid unnecessary strain on your feet and ankles.
- Listen to and request input from your instructors and more experienced dancers who can help you examine your form, posture, and technique to minimize opportunities for injury.
Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates has made accessing great care convenient with community clinics across the South Sound in Centralia, Olympia, Tumwater, Tacoma, and Yelm. If you haven’t worked with FASA before, what will stand out the most is their team. Every member is committed to investing their time, energy, and hearts into offering patient care that exceeds our expectations. The collective knowledge and experience of the physicians and staff at FASA makes them an easy choice for care if you or your little dancer are impacted by injury.
To learn more about FASA, or to schedule an appointment, visit them online at the Foot and Ankle Surgical Associates website.