Question:I am a ballet dancer with a large dance company in Texas. I've been told to stop dancing for six weeks while a stress fracture heals. I simply can't do this. What will happen if I keep dancing on this foot?
Dancers are notorious for "working through the pain" no matter what the injury. Dancing requires rigorous training and is very competitive so this kind of decision is common. Stress fractures can heal if the stress is stopped. Most bone heals within four to six weeks.
Failure to rest the area may lead to a more serious fracture. It's possible the stress fracture won't heal resulting in what's called a nonunion. So long as the bone doesn't heal, blood and nutrients aren't getting to the area. This can lead to death of bone cells called necrosis. Surgery to remove the bone and put a bone graft in place may be needed if necrosis occurs.
Other injuries further up in the kinetic chain can occur when the foot is painful. The ankle, shin, knee, hip, and even the back can be affected. Talk to your doctor about your decision. If there is a physical therapist available, make an appointment. The therapist can help you learn how to tape the foot and ankle. Strengthening the muscles around the foot and ankle can also help protect you from further injury.Luis Muscolo, MD, et al. Stress Fracture Nonunion at the Base of the Second Metatarsal in a Ballet Dancer. A Case Report. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. August/September 2004. Vol. 32. No. 6. Pp. 1535-1537.
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