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Painful Pirouettes: A Ballet Dancers Guide To Understanding Plantar Fasciitis

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Dancing is sometimes referred to as being the poetry of the feet, and it's true. When watching a beautiful ballerina perform on stage, most people in the audience are focused on the ballerina's graceful and agile footwork.

If you're a ballet dancer, you already know how important your feet are to your performance on the dance floor. You may even take your feet for granted until one day you begin to experience pain, and a visit to the podiatrist confirms the diagnosis of plantar fasciitis. If you find yourself in this situation, this article can help you know what action to take. 

What is plantar fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a ligament that runs across the bottom of the foot. It supports the arch of the foot and also is the band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes.

The plantar fascia can become irritated and weak when strained. This results in severe pain that is felt in the bottom of the foot when standing or walking.

A dancing dilemma

Anyone can develop plantar fasciitis, but dancers and athletes are more likely to be afflicted with the painful condition. In dancers, the frequent shifting of weight from the ball of the foot to the toes, as well as repeated turning motions of the foot, can cause tiny tears to form in the plantar fascia. Over time, these small tears cause inflammation and pain.

Preventing plantar fasciitis

There's no guarantee that you will be able to prevent plantar fasciitis from developing. However, taking care of your feet may lessen the likelihood of developing the condition.

When not dancing, wear proper street shoes to protect your feet. Avoid shoes that do not give your foot adequate cushioning and heel support.

Never neglect the importance of warming up the foot before beginning to dance. Even if you are running late to dance class, take the time necessary to do your typical warm up exercises for the feet and legs before you begin your dance routine.

Massage the plantar fascia following dance workouts or in between dance classes. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use a tennis ball and roll it gently back and forth beneath your foot.

Maintain a healthy weight. Even a few extra pounds can put an unnecessary strain on the feet.

What to do if you develop foot pain

As soon as you begin to experience foot pain, you should see a podiatrist to discuss your concerns. Delaying a visit to the doctor can cause the condition to worsen and lengthen the time you will need to recover. Don't ever continue to dance through your pain.

If your pain is caused by plantar fasciitis, your podiatrist will be able to work with you to treat the condition. A course of physical therapy may be recommended, and you will be given exercises to do at home as well. The length of time it takes for the plantar fascia to heal will vary depending on the severity of your condition.

Plantar fasciitis does not have to keep you off of the dance floor. Be diligent about warming up before dance and massaging your feet between and after dance sessions. Take all foot pain seriously, and don't hesitate to call your podiatrist if questions arise. When you take care of your feet, they will reward you with a stellar performance on the dance floor. For more information, contact a local foot clinic like ETL Podiatry