As Good as Their Patients' Words

Determined Dancer Overcomes Ankle Pain with Physical Therapy

Published on June 12, 2015

With the recital days away, and her ankle swollen, what can a dancer do to stop the pain?

Her first year in high school and her first performance were days away.  Slipping and twisting her ankle in rehearsal was the last thing “Julia” needed. Julia was lucky the x-rays were negative but she was stuck in this huge walking boot and had no answers.

When I first looked at her ankle I noticed she had lost strength and motion and was very tender over her ankle ligaments. She was unable to go up on point, couldn’t jump and was limping around the clinic.

Ankle Sprain

Julia had a sprained ankle.  This is where the ankle rolls and stretches the bones apart putting stress on the ligaments and partially tearing them.  It leads to swelling, weakness and a lot of pain.  The plan was to do joint mobilization on her ankle to increase the range of motion, perform soft tissue massage for the swelling, cross friction massage for the ligaments and start an exercise program.

Her exercise program consisted of using a resistance band to strengthen her foot and ankle in all directs, balance and wobble boards to restore controlled movement of the foot and ankle, and balancing exercise.  The balancing exercises started with the basic single foot flat on the ground and progressed to balancing on rocker boards and eventually inflated discs.

Physical Therpay Treatment

After the first treatment she was able to walk with only a slight limp.  She did home exercises 2-3 times a day and followed it up with ice for 10-15 minutes. The idea was to get her foot stronger but without irritating it and making it more sore. This meant that Julia really had to work hard on her ankle without overdoing it.  In therapy, I had to do the same and try to stimulate the body’s natural healing mechanisms without irritating the recently injured tissue. It was a balancing act but with a lot of instruction and practice we started to see some positive results every day.

Dancing Injuries

With her mom present, Julia decided that she could work through the pain and was determined to make her recital.  We just wanted to get her dancing as well as we could, get through her program and not injure her ankle again.

After the performance, we went a little slower in the rehab process and completed the entire process making sure she didn’t re-injury her ankle. One of the keys to avoiding ankle injuries is to actual strengthen the entire leg all the way up to the hip.


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