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Can I Stretch my Achilles Tendon Safely?

Dear Lisa,

I am dancing full time and have been for the past 3 years, I have also been doing pointe for at least 6-7 years. I am very strong en pointe and don't have any issues being en pointe, however, my ankle bones are quite large, they are not swollen but they are very developed which I find quite odd! I also tend to get quite tight Achilles tendons. Are there any more advanced ways of stretching these out after a long day of pointe work or performances? What is the best way to look after your lower legs and feet after a strenuous day? Should you ice your feet or put heat on them?

Thanks for your time,

Lauren.

Dear Lauren,

Thank you so much for your question and I think it is great for older students to be asking for advice in regards to looking after their feet. With your ankle bones; this is a rather interesting one and I could not say what it is for certain without seeing you in person, however; sometimes, if you have had repeated sprains of the ligaments on the outside of the ankle it may appear that the ankle bone is a little more developed. If you have had a strong load pulling up on the insertion points around the ankle this may be a little more developed or it may just be congenital. Take a look at your mum and dad's ankles as well as any siblings and see if they are the same shape.

Stretch Acchilles Safely Lisa Howell Tendinopathy tendinitis calf deeper plie

In regards, to your tight Achilles; a good way to lengthen them out on a continuous basis is to stand over the end of a step, rise through both feet to about 7/8 of your demi-pointe height, transfer your weight onto one foot and then very slowly lower the heel down and over the step, this helps to realign all of the fibers in the Achilles and can, over time, make it a little longer. Avoid strong, aggressive stretches of the Achilles as damage to this tendon will result in it getting tighter. You should be doing these rises, building up to three sets of fifteen three times a day, to help rehabilitate any Old Achilles tendon injury.

To look after your lower legs, ice is definitely the best idea. Get a bucket of water and fill it with cold water and some ice cubes and place your feet and ankles in here for 10-15 minutes. Make sure that your feet are flat on the bottom of the bucket and that your ankles are at a small plié position. If you simply dangle your legs in, they will chill down in a pointed position and become stiff. Icing them in this way helps to reduce any minor inflammation and will help to prevent any minor injuries from progressing. When you are working on the mobility of your feet you may use heat to help stimulate blood flow the small muscles that you are working on, though I would definitely not do this straight after dancing. If you apply heat to the feet right after you have been dancing for a long period of time it will actually cause an increase in any inflammation.

I hope this helps and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,

Lisa Howell

Pointe Resources

If you are looking to delve deeper into this topic, check out the following programs:

  • The Perfect Pointe Book: This course was originally designed to help students and dance teachers safely prepare for pointe work. The four stages of tests and exercises within the book are ideal for pre-pointe preparation classes, students close to achieving pointe shoes and students already en pointe looking for extra strength and technique training.
  • Pointe Range: This online program comprises of 41 clear and concise videos, totalling just under 2 hours play time, this course begins with a series of assessments to establish exactly what structures are restricting your pointe range. It then explores a diverse array of massage techniques, joint mobility exercises and fascial mobilisers to safely improve your pointe range. This is followed by an in depth look at retraining all of the muscles that stabilise the foot and ankle to allow you to actually use your new found pointe range in class.
  • Pointe Intensive: This online virtual workshop is designed for both Dance Teachers & Health Professionals working with dancers. This three day Intensive will give you the most up-to-date advice in the industry to help you understand your students’ needs, analyze their differences, and them you the tools to help your students become the best dancer they can be.

 

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