Dancers, as well as many other athletes, are extremely prone to many injuries, in particular, injuries to the foot and ankle. One of the most common among these injuries that are seen notably in dancers is called Achilles Tendonitis. Achilles Tendonitis is derived from the Greek legend of Achilles. The term Achilles Tendon is derived from this myth in which the Greek god Achilles was dipped in the river Styx to become immortal. The back of his ankle did not touch the water, therefore rendering his ankle vulnerable to common human pain.
This is why the tendon that runs down the back of the ankle is known as the Achilles Tendon, and as the story goes, can cause much pain when injured. Unlike most tendons in the human body, the Achilles Tendon lacks its own rich blood supply. Because of this lack of a rich blood supply, many dancers are consequently prone to injury and chronic Achilles Tendonitis. The severity of Achilles Tendonitis may vary from a mild irritation and inflammation, to the thinning of the fibers themselves. This can lead to swelling, and more severely leading to adhesions between the tendon and its sheath.
Symptoms of Achilles Tendonitis can be very deceiving. Sharp pains a dancer may experience can subside while dancing and then return before completing the dance or production. This is a problem because one can further injure themselves when this scenario occurs. Achilles tendonitis in dancers can be caused by many factors. These factors may include ignoring heel pains, overworking the feet and ankles, overstretching (as well as not stretching enough), breaking in new shoes (also not wearing supportive shoes), and most commonly, not warming up and cooling down properly.
With all of these factors, a dancer can easily develop any form of Achilles Tendonitis, or other injuries. Another reason many dancers are susceptible to Achilles Tendonitis can be associated with the fact that they work in a plantar flexion, which is the extension of the ankle resulting in the forefoot moving away from the body. Consequently, dancers develop tighter heel cords than the average person. Also, in dancers it is almost impossible to avoid stretching the Achilles while dancing. Many positions dancers use frequently may place an extra strain on the Achilles, particularly a position of low releve.
With a bone prominence in the posterior superior portion (upper back portion) of the calcaneus (heel bone), the condition is more likely to occur because the bone and tendon rub together. This can be a problem for many dancers who may take short leaves of absence, and then upon returning to dance they may instantly see symptoms again. Treatment for Achilles Tendonitis varies from person to person. Complete inactivity would probably be considered the best treatment along with anti-inflammatory medication, and applications of ice and heat.
There are other medical treatments available for this pain. To lessen the amount of fluid build up, as well as to control pain, there are a plethora of anti-inflammatory medications available. Ultrasound therapy is also a fairly new form of treatment. The high-frequency waves are transmitted through a tens unit and will stimulates damaged tissue, healing the tendon faster. (Dance technique, p. 2) It would be most imperative for the dancer to wear heel lifts in their shoes on a daily basis, when walking, running, or dancing.
Although many dancers may put themselves in high-risk situations regarding their health, they continue to do it with passion. Prevention of injuries with particular attention to the Achilles Tendon is one of the most important aspects self care in the dancing world. A dancer providing care and concern for his or her body will be able to maintain their dancing activity as long as possible, and with much less pain to endure. Taking care of something as simple as one’s Achilles tendon will provide one with a greater benefit in their present and future dancing careers.