Dr. Sinkoe Offers Advice for the Dancer with Plantar Fasciitis

What is Plantar Fasciitis?

The plantar fascia is a thick ligament-like structure which originates on the heel bone (calcaneus) and attaches within the ball of the foot and toes. It functions to support the intrinsic muscles within the arch of the foot and to stabilize the toes during walking, running and jumping. The plantar fascia is always under tension with walking and running, but also during stance.


What causes Plantar Fasciitis?

During dance, the tension within the plantar fascia is increased as the muscles decelerate the foot when rolling down from demi-pointe and particularly when landing from a jump. The muscles contract and tighten with relevé.
Therefore, with repetitive relevé and jumps in dance the plantar fascia and the intrinsic foot muscles are placed under a lot of tension. To add to this, any tightness of the Achilles tendon will place additional stress to the plantar fascia. Even in the most flexible dancer, the Achilles tendon will tighten with pointe work and relevé. Tightness of the Achilles tendon and hamstring muscles are the reason that the heel is more painful when first standing in the mornings or after rest. As the Achilles tendon and hamstrings tighten during the night or with rest, the plantar fascia also tightens.


How to treat Plantar Fasciitis?

 

Photo: Anne Tyler Harshbarger; photo by Charlie McCullers.

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