Dirty Dancing: Tendonitis, Warts and Athlete’s Foot

Tendonitis is inflammation of a tendon. The foot has 19 tendons and muscular attachments, where tendons attach muscle to bone. When the muscle contracts, it causes a pull on the tendon that will move the bone. A direct trauma to the tendon can cause inflammation of that tendon. Overuse of the tendon also causes tendonitis. This can occur from a change in workout techniques, learning new dance steps with repetitive movements or a biomechanical imbalance causing the tendon to work harder than normal. An accidental movement or slip can also cause an unnatural force on the tendon.

Prevention is the key for dancers to avoid injury. Correct stretching and flexibility minimizes the chances of inflammation of the tendon. Proper warm-up and cool-down after dancing is also vital. Tendonitis results in pain when the tendon moves. Therefore, the primary objective of treatment is to stop the tendon from moving. This will allow the tendon to rest and facilitate healing. Proper bracing or even casting may be necessary for immobilization. Sometimes a pad can reduce the work of a tendon. A good example is the Achilles tendon. A foot brace that uses elastic tension and compression will keep the tendon from moving, eliminating much of pressure and allowing this very important tendon time to rest and heal.

Immobilization might be required for up to 4 weeks. Ice used during the first 48 hours after onset of pain will help ease discomfort. Heat is recommended after 48 hours have passed and anti-inflammatory medications may also be helpful.

Tinea pedis, the Latin name for athlete’s foot, is a fungal infection that can affect the skin and or nails of the foot. Most often athlete’s foot occurs between the toes, on the bottom or top of the foot or in the toenails themselves. Dancers, however, most commonly contract this fungus in the arch area. Symptoms include redness, burning, itching and scaling skin. Blisters can form leading the skin to become further inflamed and irritated which leads to oozing from lesions. Scratching the infected area encourages the fungus to spread, leading the condition to worsen. Another complication of a fungal infection is fissures. There is also risk of developing a secondary bacterial infection.

Catching a fungus is similar to getting a virus; some people are more susceptible than others. Direct contact with the fungus is necessary to contract the disease, but some people with higher resistance will not contract the condition. Fungus needs 3 things to survive; moisture, heat and darkness and a foot in a shoe is a perfect environment and catalyst for a fungus to thrive. Over-the-counter anti-fungal medication and soaks will reduce immediate itching and irritation. Powders should be applied to the feet to keep them dry.

Verrucae is warts, they can be found anywhere on the foot or body. When they are on the bottom of the foot, they are referred to as plantar warts. Verrucae vulgaris occurs on the dorsum, or top, of the foot. All warts are caused by the papova virus, but plantar warts have a different appearance. Because the feet are used for walking they are flattened into the epidermis or top skin layer. Warts are non-invasive and only grow in the epidermis. They don’t invade the dermis or go beyond, but they can spread to other locations.

Warts are present mostly in adolescents, but can affect any age group. Because they are a virus, warts are contagious to susceptible people. Warts usually cause pain from squeezing, not on direct palpation. Warts are vascular, meaning they have a lot of blood vessels and can bleed easily from rubbing or cutting. The pain occurs due to the pressure exerted by the wart’s mass to the surrounding normal soft tissue. Conservative therapy includes the use of various acids. Most OTC products may be ineffective, but there are some home use freeze dry products that can safely remove warts permanently.