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Do You Have a Stress Fracture? How to Tell if That Painful Pinch is Something to Worry About

On any given day, dancers are dealing with some kind of physical discomfort. And while ice-heat-rest-repeat is often the best remedy, persistent pain could indicate something more serious—like a stress fracture. Stress fractures have a myriad of causes and can mimic many other injuries. How do you know if your pain is from a stress fracture? Dance Spirit turned to Joseph Turcic, PT, DPT, CMPT, CSCS, FRCms, FRAs, of Symbio Physical Therapy in NYC, for a breakdown.


What They Feel Like

According to Turcic, you'll feel a sharp, deep pain that doesn't get better with rest, heat, ice, or massage. It's most noticeable after landing a jump or absorbing shock of any kind. "The pain can also get worse if you're sitting in a bumpy car or bus, because the vibrations will irritate the fracture," he says.

What Causes Them

The most common locations for stress fractures are the tibia bones in your legs, the tarsal bones of your feet, and the lower back. "The main causes are overuse and trying to dance through lingering injuries that didn't heal or weren't rehabbed properly," Turcic says. However, there are also medical causes to consider, including osteopenia, which is a condition that causes weak bones often due to low vitamin D levels.

What It Could Be Instead

Stress fractures, while common, aren't always the right diagnosis. "There are plenty of injuries that feel similarly," Turcic says, "including tendonitis, ligament sprains, shin splints, or lower back strains." The only way to know for sure is to consult your doctor, who will perform all the necessary testing.

So You Have a Stress Fracture—Now What?

If the stress fracture's in your foot or lower leg, you can expect to be in a boot for anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. If it's in your lower back, your doctor will determine whether or not you need to wear a brace. The bottom line is that in order to let your body heal, you need to rest—otherwise there's a high chance you'll just aggravate the stress fracture more in the future.

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A Letter from the Editor in Chief

Hi, dance friends. It is a strange time to be a person in the world, and an especially strange time to be a dancer. As the dance community faces the coronavirus crisis, a lot of you are coping with closed studios, canceled performances and competitions, and a general sense of anxiety about how your world will look going forward.

Yes, dancers are super resilient, and there's been a lot of inspiring community-building happening. #LivingRoomDances and Instagram dance parties and virtual ballet classes with the pros are wonderful. Dance can, and should, be a bright spot in the darkness. But that weird, empty feeling you have? It might be grief. The loss of the certainty of daily class, the loss of the promise of that big end-of-year performance—that's real. The dance studio has always been a safe place; it's especially hard not to have that outlet now, when you need it most.

We're here for you. We—and our friends at Dance Magazine, Pointe, Dance Teacher, The Dance Edit, and Dance Business Weekly—are doing our best to document the hurdles facing the dance industry, and to advocate for dancers in need. We're developing more online content that will help you maintain and improve your technique while you're at home, and process the mental and emotional fallout of all this upheaval. (You can keep up with the latest stories here.) And we're still making our print magazine. We have issues planned and shot, full of great dance stories and beautiful photos. We're not going anywhere.

We want to hear from you. Talk to us. Or dance to us. Or both. We won't stop moving, and you shouldn't, either.

Margaret

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