Avoiding Injury

It’s the moment we all dread, when the doc looks at you and says “you know what I’m going to tell you, don’t you…”

Starting at the begining, back in September, during Nawarra’s excelent and fun (and vigorous) Sha’abi workshop, I felt a tug under my left arch. That had happened in the past before when I’ve been bouncing too much, I didn’t think about it twice, wore a support for a few days, and promptly forgot about it. Then the Bonfire Parade came, the coldest in years, with a temperature of about 5°C, and despite wearing my brand new possum and alpaca wollen socks, and the multiple layers, no amount of warming up could make up for the freezing temperatures, and I got bad cramps first, and was showing a distinct swelling around the inner ankle bone when I got back home. I slept on it, saw the swelling the following day, spent the day with my foot up, skipped Sunday class, wore a support for a few days, and promptly forgot about it. I blamed the bone chip leftover from that very bad sprain in 2010 (before I started dancing, and the culprit in my late start, actually).

Come November, I started ATS level 2, where the conditioning now included one-footed hip drops and shimmies; we also started doing more work in relevé in both Egyptian and ATS classes, with plenty of shimmies. I was rather happy that I could now spend more time on tiptoes, as I used to be useless about that. Every now and then, my ankle would complain a bit, I would wear a support for a couple of days, then promptly forget about it (starting to see a theme here?). December came, and for one reason or other I had to flee classes without proper stretching and cool down, in the cold, sometimes with quite a bit of a walk as I had to take a bus. Last classes came, and by mid December I was waking up with a stiffness on the back of my leg that, by late December, had started to make me limp when waking up. It would go away with a bit of movement, and since I had no classes planned for nearly a month, I decided to start practicing at home. Heck, I even planned a full choreography during a week! I was on fire! Late December, there was that VNV Nation concert, and again the swelling and a bit of limping (“Must be that I spent too long standing up, no doubt!”). And the New Year’s party, where I went as far as… you guessed, put on a support and forgot about it.

And then I got together with my friend L. to start praciting that lovely choreography, my very first, child of my loins (figuratively) and suddenly… *pop*. It felt like popping a joint, except that the pain was instant and intense. And I had to stagger to a chair, and request ice. And after an afternoon at A&E the following day, and some X-rays that showed that thankfully there was no broken bone and everything was attached, I had the traumatologist sit me down for a *very serious talk*.

Apparently, I was dancing too much. And while the dancing helps, the dancing is also THE PROBLEM (he was very serious, you could hear the uppercase in his tone of voice)
“But I thought you guys wanted me to exercise!”
“yes, but we normally mean things like swimming”
“I would if I could travel to a pool nearby, you know”

The diagnostic was, unsurprisingly, tendinitis. The doc was, despite what it sounds like, surprisingly good, surprisingly sympathetic, and surprisingly supportive, and agreed that since I *liked* dancing it was the best thing for me to do, I was just too enthusiastic about it. He did say, however, “no dancing for at least a week”. He explained all the anatomy of the leg muscles and tendons for me, and pointed out that I kept having issues consistent with the Achilles tendon being overworked, including pulls underneath and down the back, and around the inside of the ankle. According to the physiotherapist, it is very likely that I have one or more sprains combined with the tendinitis. She mentioned that it was possible that all the movements had increased the muscle mass on the calves without enough stretching of the tendons to compensate (her words, I suspect she was trying to dumb it down for me) and that a stiff tendon made everything else work harder and more prone to sprains. She did, however, agreed that I could dance. Except that I can’t do any spinning, turning, jumping, or quick change of direction; no arabesques for me either, no slow turning hip drops, no TSWATS. And no relevé. At least until it starts healing, and only then slowly easing myself into it.

You can follow the pattern quite easily. There are two things that seem consistent, one is the lack of proper warm-up or cool down for particular events, the other is throwing some duck tape at it and ignoring it. Now I’m paying for it, and dearly, as I can barely walk down the stairs, my ATS L2 second term will be screwed, I’m having to skip a performance at the end of January, and my glorious choreography planned for the Hafla in February is also a no-go. The good news is that I *should* be back to normal by March. The bad news is that the tendinitis can reoccur, although I’ve been told it should not as long as I remember to do the physio exercises, and to warm up and cool down and stretch properly, and preferably avoid dancing on uneven surfaces or when it is cold. Goodbye Bonfire Parade, I never liked you that much anyway.

What’s the moral of the story? Take care of your body. It’s the only one you have, and there’s no point in killing it; you’re not taking part in an Iron Woman contest, there’s no point in grinding your teeth and “working through the pain”, nobody is going to believe you’re any better, and what’s worse, as the rest of your body has to compensate for it, you might actually injure or damage your other leg. If there is consistent pain, chances are there is something going on that requires your attention. If I had gone to the doc back in early December I would have probably avoided the extra sprain, and although the diagnosis and treatment would have been exactly the same, most of it would have happened over a break period without classes, so I would have been nearly back to normal by the time I was back. I’m already slapping myself for this, and I’ve promised everybody I won’t do it again.

And now I’m publishing my stupidity on the hopes that it helps others avoid the same.

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