• June 28, 2023

Ankle Dance Injuries: What Kind Do I Have and How to Treat?

dancer leg warmer -dance injuries

Ankle Dance Injuries: What Kind Do I Have and How to Treat?

Ankle Dance Injuries: What Kind Do I Have and How to Treat? 1024 683 Positive Energy Physical Therapy

Dance Injuries: Achilles Tendinopathy vs. Posterior Ankle Impingement

Like a pianist’s wrist, hands, and fingers, the ankles, feet, and toes are a huge part of what makes a dancer, a dancer.

Most dancers have been told, “point your toes” during class. It’s almost a rite of passage.

However, with the overuse of a body part (like pointing your toes) often comes injury, from ankle sprains, tendinopathy, ankle impingement to fractures – not to mention countless blisters and bloody toes. Dance injuries are common and its good to know the type, treatment and how to prevent them.

We have seen dancers who are sporting leg warmers around ONE of their ankles. Often this backside ankle pain can be Achilles tendinopathy, but not always. It is possible that the dancer is experiencing posterior ankle impingement.

So, what’s the difference between Achilles tendinopathy and posterior ankle impingement? Why does it matter?

Here’s the Difference:

  •  Achilles Tendinopathy
    • Overload or overuse problem with a soft tissue (tendon) that connects the calf (muscle) to the calcaneus (bone).
    • Onset of pain is gradual
    • Pain and stiffness in the morning
    • Hurts when you touch it or move it
    • Warm and swollen around the tendon or heel
  • Posterior Ankle Impingement
    • Pinching of a soft tissue or bone when pointing your ankle/toes all the way
    • Located on the back of the ankle
    • Due to a traumatic event or can be chronic
    • Pain is consistent, sharp, dull and/or radiating
    • Aggravated by running downhill, pointing toes fully, and being en élève — half pointe, full pointe, high heels
    • Alleviated by rest

ankle dance injuries - achilles tendinopathy vs. posterior ankle impingement

Why It Matters:

  • The treatment for these dance injuries is different!
  • If you are doing rehabilitation for the wrong injury, you won’t get the results you’re looking for!

Treatment for These Dance Injuries

  • Achilles Tendinopathy
    • Optimize jumping technique
    • Change intensity/frequency of exercises
    • Strengthen soleus (muscle)
    • Train through a full range of motion
  • Posterior Impingement
    • Modify pointing
    • Avoid curling the toes under the foot, think about elongating the toes
    • When en pointe or half pointe, lift up and out of your shoe

Then, How can I Decrease the Likelihood of these Dance Injuries?

  • Practice with good technique – not just on stage, but in every class
  • Listen to your body!
    • If it hurts, seek medical attention.
    • Do not just push through or “just rest”.
    • Communicate with your parents, physical therapist, and dance teachers to get everyone on your team.
  • Cross training. Get stronger by partaking in activities other than dance classes.

Not sure where to start with cross training? Check out our Positive Energy blog post: Cross Training to Prevent Dance Injuries

Call Positive Energy Physical Therapy & Sports Performance to help you prevent and recover from dance injuries.