When working with dancers, achilles tendonitis is definitely one of the most common issues I have seen. It is also one of the most common reoccurring injuries I have seen dancers experience. The achilles tendon attaches the calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone (calcaneus). The importance of these structures for dancers is evident as they are involved with relevés, pliés, all jumps, pointing the foot, dancing on pointe, etc.
Typically, I see dancers with the diagnosis of achilles tendonitis do either one of two things:
1. The dancer takes time off or rests then returns to dance only to have the injury return.
2. The dancer continues to dance while the pain continues to worsen until it becomes so
excruciating the dancer is forced to stop.
Potential Causes and Factors that Can Contribute to Achilles Tendonitis:
- Flaws in technique and biomechanices. For example, over pronation (rolling the foot in) or not allowing the heels to touch the floor during jumping combinations/exercises.
- Imbalances of muscle/tendon length and strength, not only at and around the ankle but throughout the entire leg including the hip.
- A sudden increase or change in intensity or amount of activity. There seems to be an increased occurrence of injury for dancers during competition season or right before shows/recitals/performances.
- Genetic bone structure that predisposes the dancer to alignment issues.
- Improper footwear. Dancers do not typically wear supportive footwear. However, elastics or ribbons that are too tight may irritate structures around the ankle.
- Differences in flooring (Sprung versus non-sprung floors).
Risk of Going Untreated
Repeated episodes of tendonitis and chronic achilles pain can lead to tendonosis which is when chronic deterioration of the tendon can occur without inflammation. This increases the risk of the dancer experiencing a tendon rupture.
What to Do
Any injury, especially a reoccurring injury, should be evaluated by a health care professional. At Elite PT, a physical therapist experienced in working with dancers would evaluate technique, evaluate any limitations in strength or flexibility, and determine a plan to decrease pain and decrease the re-occurrence of injury in order to return to full function.