Updated: Jan 21, 2022
Written by Dr. Laura Fetko, PT, DPT
What is Achilles tendonitis? It is an over-use injury of the tendon that attaches the calf muscle to the heel, which then becomes inflamed. As dancers we utilize our relevé constantly, this contracts the calf muscle and in turn can shorten the calf causing decreased flexibility. This can affect the Achilles tendon by adding stress onto tissue, this stress can increase inflammation within the tendon which can lead to pain.
What are some ways that Achilles tendonitis can be prevented within the dance studio? As a dance teacher, if you asked my students what is my catch phrase they would say “Put your heels on the ground”. This is an important concept, when landing any jump or even just a demi plie by putting your heels on the ground this will elongate not only the Achilles tendon but also the calf muscle. This will decrease stress and tension on the tendon. Another concept to think about is how your shoes are fitting. If the backs of your shoes are feeling snug against your heel you may want to consider a larger shoe size. This is especially true for pointe shoes. When en pointe if the back of the shoe is too tight, it can compress the Achilles tendon, leading to decreased blood flow to the area and increased inflammation. Everything leads back to turn out. If we are forcing our turn out this causes malalignment leading to foot pronation. Foot pronation is when the arches are no longer supported by the foot muscles, putting excess stress on the Achilles to support the ankles.
Physical therapy is another avenue to help prevent and treat Achilles tendonitis. We are able to assess the injury and provide you with a treatment plan that is customized to your needs. Some treatments that could be utilized include modalities such as ESTIM, massage, exercises with dance specificity and a plan to help prevent Achilles tendonitis in the future.
If you have any further questions, please visit our website at magnapt.com or email our Dance Medicine Team, Dr. Meagan Robichaud, PT, DPT at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Laura Fetko, PT, DPT at email@example.com