Bunions, tendinitis, metatarsalgia, growth plate injuries, strains, sprains, fractures! Are you experiencing foot pain? If you are….
FIRST and foremost, figure out what the problem is! Make an appointment, go to the doctor, get a referral to a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon, get the x-rays, etc.…. whatever it takes to diagnose the problem. If you know what the problem is, then you can treat it appropriately. And then, LISTEN to the doctor’s advice and recommendations. DO what they tell you to do. If this means taking a break in order to heal, then take the break. This may be what ultimately ensures your future as a dancer.
Parents – if your child is complaining about foot or ankle pain, please don’t ignore it, particularly if it lasts for more than a week or two! These kids are growing, and these growth spurts consistently change the alignment of their bones, ligaments and tendons which can put undue stress on the feet, ankles, knees and hips. Adult dancers – although you may no longer be growing, there are shifts that may occur in your alignment which may need correcting. And you obviously can experience the same type of overuse injuries that many growing dancers also endure.
If foot pain is the issue, here are a couple of things you can try at home to ease the discomfort. Please check with your doctors first, as they will always be able to provide the best guidance for each individual case.
- SHOES/ORTHOTICS. Consider using arch support, foot padding, gel inserts, and pay attention to what type of shoes you are wearing outside of dance. Your doctor will be able to best advise you on what type of shoe and/or orthotic will be of the most assistance to your specific type of pain/injury. Ladies – if you are wearing high heels, please put some cushions in there to protect the balls of your feet! Kiddos – if you are running around barefoot (and often trebling) on concrete and tile, please keep in mind that it might not be the best thing for your dancing feet!
- SOCKS. Consider socks with strategic padding and compression. We are currently trying out Apolla Performance shocks and Thorlos thick padded socks and will update you soon on what we like and what works best!
- STRONG CENTER. Check in with your core and glutes to make sure that they are strong and that you are using them when you dance! Believe it or not, if these areas are strong and stable, they will take a lot of pressure off of the lower leg joints and feet. Exercises such as bridges and planks can help to develop a strong center.
- FIRST AID. Use the old faithful first aid response of icing the area of pain, after dancing and up to 3 times per day for 15-20 mins.
- ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES/VITAMINS. Ask your doctor about anti-inflammatory medications, essential oils, topical creams, and Vitamin D supplementation.
- WRAP/TAPE. Learn how to wrap or tape your foot or ankle in order to provide more stability.
- ROLL/STRETCH. Never underestimate the power of rolling and stretching! There are many foot rollers out there today, but even a frozen plastic bottle of water may alleviate arch pain. Keeping the fascia loose and mobile can prevent strains, sprains, and even fractures. If your child is experiencing a large growth spurt (like mine!), their ligaments and tendons can get very tight very quickly. So stretching and keeping everything mobile (particularly the feet and ankles) is a must! And be consistent about it!
- If the correct treatment for your individual injury is taking a break, don’t fret! And do not look at it as the end of your dance career. Look at it as an opportunity to allow your body to heal and rebuild even stronger. Remember that most athletes have an off-season (and most dancers do not). Pay extra attention to your nutrition, as food is medicine. Depending on your injury, it may be a great time to cross train with activities such as Pilates or yoga. You may also be able to keep up your strength and stamina with non-weight bearing resistance training and/or cycling intervals. There are many options here, but always be sure to check with your doctor first for the most appropriate treatment for you.