Are stiff, swollen Achilles tendons making pointe class painful? You could be suffering from Achilles tendinitis. James Gallegro—MSPT, CMPT with the Manhattan Physio Group, who works with many professional dancers and companies—spoke to Dance Spirit about how to handle the all-too-common problem.
What is it?
Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon (the thin tendon directly above your heel on the back side of your ankle) caused by tiny tears in the tendon's fibers.
What causes it?
Overuse is the most common cause of Achilles tendinitis, especially in dancers with tight calves. It's important to release the tightness in order to relieve pressure on the tendon. Dancers who tie their pointe shoe ribbons too tightly are also at risk, as that restricts the movement of the tendon—another cause of tendinitis.
How to deal
Gallegro recommends icing the area (15 to 20 minutes every two to three hours) for the first two to three days after you're diagnosed. You can also insert a heel lift into your shoes to take the strain off the tendon, but be sure to put lifts in both shoes so you're still evenly balanced. If your calves are tight, massage them with a tennis or pressure-point ball. Also, using topical creams like Arnica can help speed up healing and reduce inflammation. But if the pain persists for more than two weeks, Gallegro advises consulting your physician.