Dancing In The Pain: Understanding Flexor Hallucis Longus Tendonitis In Ballet Dancers

Posted on: 19 April 2016

Some injuries are nearly unique to ballet dancers, and flexor hallucis longus tendonitis is one of them. The condition is painful and can disrupt your dance routine. However, understanding what causes the ailment and what symptoms to watch for may spare you from being sidelined on the dance floor.

What is flexor hallucis longus tendonitis?

The flexor hallucis longus tendon is a muscle in the calf that helps to provide power to the foot. It specifically points the big toe and is important in helping to stabilize ballet dancer's ankles when dancing en pointe. The tendon passes through a sheath on the underside of the inner ankle bone and runs along the bottom of the foot.

What are the symptoms of hallucis longus tendonitis?

Pain that is felt on the inner side of the ankle when you are performing a dance maneuver is a key symptom. This pain is typically felt in the area behind the ankle bone and may be more noticeable when performing a tendu or when dancing on pointe.

The pain can travel down to the toe. The area may feel tender to the touch. You may also notice a catching sensation if the tendon has grown thickened due to prolonged inflammation and irritation.

The condition typically develops gradually. If it is mild, you may not feel any pain during dance practice or a performance. However, the pain may be felt afterwards or not until the next day. As the condition worsens, the pain will be felt during activity.

Preventing hallucis longus tendonitis

There are several things you can do to help prevent hallucis longus tendonitis from developing. Always follow you dance instructor's protocol for warming up and stretching, and never stretch before you warm up. Warming up gently elevates tissue temperatures and makes your muscles more pliable. Pliable muscles are less susceptible to injuries.

You should always avoid excessive rolling in of the feet and pointing your toes too forcefully. During times of extensive rehearsals or performances, you should take precautions to limit additional strain on your feet outside of dance class.

Treating hallucis longus tendonitis

Early treatment is critical and makes the condition easier to reverse. As soon as you experience pain, consult a physician. Inflammation left untreated can cause weakening and thickening of the tendon. In severe cases, it can even lead to tearing of the tendon.

You will likely be referred for physical therapy. Your therapy will consist of cold treatment, massage, and joint mobilization to ease your discomfort. Your physical therapist may also suggest taping to help keep the big toe joint properly aligned with the first metatarsal.

You will need to reduce your activity until your tendon heals. This time will vary depending on the severity of the condition. When you are pain free, you will be instructed in resuming your normal dance routine to prevent the injury from occurring again.

While no dancer is immune to developing dance injuries, understanding flexor hallucis longus tendonitis may help you prevent the condition. Knowing what symptoms to watch for can help you catch the condition early, which means less time sidelined on the dance floor. For more information about treating this kind of injury, contact a company like Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital.