Sunday, October 28, 2007

Prevent Common Ballet Injuries In Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes

A physio therapist talks about how to prevent common ballet injuries:

"Often ballet teachers find the specifics of training the foot strength needed for pointe work difficult as it came naturally to them. However for many people, the isolated strength needed in the feet must be specifically trained, especially nowadays, as many children who grow up in cities spend little time bare foot on different surfaces, which naturally trains the tiny intrinsic muscles of the feet. Understanding how these muscles should work when dancing is imperative in a long, injury free, career in dance." - Lisa Howell, author of The Perfect Pointe Book.

In addition to intrinsic muscle weakness, the foot and ankle can suffer other injuries. Floors built on concrete are a source of injury, even for dancers who are taught to "come down through the foot". This technique helps, but does not fully compensate for hard flooring.


Any repetitive motion can lead to injury.

Some ankles and achilles tendons will build up soft tissue mass or calcified masses from pointe shoe ribbons being tied tight.

Some ankles won't like the repetitive releves and jumps required by dancing and will build up some type of tissue resistance at the front of the ankles. This extra tissue will cause disruption to the movements, or pain, or both.

ANY incorrect technique such as rolling ankles, turning out the foot more than the leg (a requirement in ballet), too short pointe shoes, too narrow pointe shoes, insecure demi-plies,(heels not on the floor, leading to sliding heels too far forward, usually, resulting in tense ankles, tibial muscles [ shin splints]), - and you go up the body from there, straining knees, hips, low back, raising shoulders, straining neck, clenching jaw, locking cranial bones, headaches - need I say more?

However, the human body can repair its tissues, especially with the help of good nutrition. Whole food supplements for collagen, ligaments, and muscle can be added to the diet. After a fracture, raw veal bone meal and correct calcium supplements can speed healing greatly.

Icing and diet can decrease inflammation. No one is "stuck with" an injury. All athletes have the internet to refer to, to add to what their own doctors, chiropractors and physiotherapists tell them about healing injuries.

With the correct strength and development of the foot muscles, you can prevent common ballet injuries.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Wearing Ballet Pointe Shoes At The Barre

Wearing ballet pointe shoes for barre work is a good habit for intermediate and advanced students. Hopefully you already have the top of the line manual for dancing in ballet pointe shoes, The Perfect Pointe Book.
Click on the pic to see more about this book!

The sole of the foot and ankle have to work so much more with every tendu, degage, the rise onto demi-pointe, and push off in allegro. The shoe resists, and the muscles get a better workout.

If the thickness of the sole makes your foot wobble because it does not lie flat on the floor, here's a balance exercise you can do: standing on one foot at a time, close your eyes, and concentrate on finding your balance. You will strengthen your ankles this way.

Pointe shoes are beautiful when new, but get beaten up looking easily. When I was training, there was little concern about how long they would look new. Scuffs and worn satin were the rewarding sign of hard work.

If you have a performance coming up, it's different. Wear socks over them as needed, but cut a hole at the toe and heel, so that you won't slide. Try to have as many pairs as you need broken in, to the same degree, before your shows.

When your feet are totally sore and aching, use an ice pack! It is wonderful for pain and can be done several times an evening. (5- 10 min. per hour max). But, don't have a plastic ice pack touch bare skin.Wrap it, or get a fabric covered ice pack.
Versatile Ice Pack

Also, lying on the floor with your legs resting straight up the wall for a few minutes is good to help your muscles relax.

Work hard, and relax and stretch your muscles to keep the best tone. Use a pinkie ball under the soles of your feet to work out the muscle tension.

I highly recommend The Perfect Pointe Book to help you learn all about working your feet correctly in ballet pointe shoes. It is the best ballet guide for strengthening your feet and avoiding muscle strain and injury!