The Joys and Pain of Ballet Dancing, Trigger Toes Explained

Dancing and ballet in particular is an activity that demands great physical strength in the feet and toes. Ballet dancers often have to support their weight only using their toes for long periods of time.  When you’ve got the whole force of your body pressing against a single point then toe injury is just around the corner.

“En pointe” or standing on your toes is a discipline required by ballet dancers. When pressure is concentrated on the big toe, it can injure the flexor hallucis longus muscle which is responsible for flexing the big toe.

Do you have trigger toe?

Although trigger toe is a foot condition commonly found among ballet dancers, it is also a condition found in non-ballet dancers. As long as the conditions for developing a trigger toe is met, almost anyone can suffer from the condition.

Symptoms of trigger toe include pain that is usually mild at first and steadily worsens as the condition progresses. For ballet dancers, pain is triggered when performing the en pointe position and is immediately relieved through rest or when weight is taken off the feet.

People suffering from a trigger toe may experience a clicking sensation when moving the toes. Sometimes it may be necessary for you to use your hands to move or flex the big toe.  

A visit to a podiatrist is recommended when the first signs of a trigger toe is observed. Dr. Bruce Miller and Dr. Gregory Mangum are Podiatrists who specializes in helping people with trigger toes.

Treatment and Management

Treatment options may differ according to the severity of the condition. An ice pack can be used to reduce pain and swelling.

Conservative treatments can include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) for immediate relief of inflammation.

Foot strengthening exercises can also be used before a dancer proceeds into more complex steps such as the en pointe position. This is to strengthen the arch and decrease the pressure on the big toe.

Sometimes a weight management program is advised to reduce the weight load on the feet.

For severe cases, surgery is recommended for releasing the tendon and restore normal functioning. 

Cases of trigger toes are rare especially for those who don’t engage in ballet. However, trigger toes will always be a huge concern for ballet dancers. The chances for a full recovery is high and ballet dancers with a history of trigger toes can resume their career.

At The Texas Foot Specialists located in Sugar Land, Pasadena and Houston we specialize in helping people with trigger toes.  To schedule an appointment call Sugar Land (281) 242-4448, Pasadena (281) 991-0600 and Houston (713) 664-6677.