Back ‘on my toes’ – an update on my foot!

For those that don’t know, I fractured my fifth metatarsal on August 29 during ballet class. It was pretty devastating! Somehow, though – probably thanks to all the support I got from friends, family, and teachers – I made it through. Yesterday I was allowed back en pointe (hence the pun, totally intended, in the title!) and I am very happy to report that it went much better than I had expected. There was still a bit of tightness in my left ankle, which made it difficult to achieve the same degree of range of motion as I have on my right side, but it was hardly a problem — I was still able to get over my box just fine. So, no complications I wasn’t expecting, which is really great news! I feel that by the end of the week I will feel much better and more stable up en pointe, and with my full range of motion back. If not by the end of this week, then very soon!

In honor of this major event, I decided to dedicate this post to my injury, writing a sort of timeline of my injury, from date of injury until now — cool x-ray pictures included! But before I do that, I quickly want to mention two things. First of all, sorry for being MIA since Saturday; it’s finals week! ‘Nuff said. Second, my teacher told me something really significant and important to me yesterday, that made me really proud of myself. Remember my private studio time I had last week over Thanksgiving break? Well, yesterday during class, my teacher told me she thinks that week of working on my own really helped and made a difference. I am so happy that she said that, because not only does it confirm what I thought to be true (I, too, could feel that I was able to work better the past two days as a result of last week), but it also means that I met the goal I had set for myself last week — if you recall, my goal was to really use that week to work on details and do whatever I need to do so that I can come back after break feeling like I’m really better from my injury, really back. And I most definitely feel that way! So, a pat on the back for me…

And now, the timeline! As it so happens, the fracture I had is known as a Dancer’s fracture. Needless to say that helped ease some of the pain, knowing I had acquired a true battle scar! Still, it was a long process:

[Note: I had some difficulty getting the pictures placed correctly throughout my post; as a result, all pictures mentioned are included together at the bottom of this post. I would love for them to be distributed throughout the post next to their respective date on the timeline, but I was unable to make this happen. Oh well — practice makes perfect! Maybe next time!]

August 29, evening – Date of injury; swelling, bruising, and difficulty walking noted immediately upon injury; I ended up finishing the whole class, including jumps, but found myself in tears by the time class was over, and by then I was limping.

August 30, morning –  First visit to the new orthopedist; I called early morning after a restless night of ibuprofen, icing, elevation, and compression (and lots of tears!); upon physical examination, orthopedist notices tenderness, swelling, and bruising, and diagnoses a fracture to the 5th metatarsal, confirmed by x-ray. As the x-ray shows, the fracture was non-displaced, which is an excellent thing. If it were displaced, I would have had to have surgery! And two surgeries throughout my 18 years of life is plenty already. I was put in a cast and ordered to use crutches; I was to be on crutches, non-weight bearing, for 6 weeks. Here are pictures of the first set of x-rays.

September 21 – Three-week check-up; the purpose of this appointment was to make sure the fracture stayed in place, and did not shift to become displaced. If it had shifted, it would have, as I said above, required surgery to treat. Luckily, it stayed in place, as is evidenced by the x-rays (take through the cast!)

October 5 – After 5 weeks in the cast, my foot was healing well, and I was able to get the cast removed and to begin my transition off of crutches! I was fitted into a walking boot and told to gradually come of the crutches over the first week with the boot (partial weight-bearing);  on the second week wearing the boot I would be allowed to weight-bear and go without crutches completely. This was a happy moment for me! In addition the the x-rays, I managed to snap a photo of the nurse actually in the process of removing my cast. Pretty cool, right?!

October 12 — A significant day, because this is the day I said “au revoir!” to my dear crutches. A comical picture in honor of the occasion:

October 19 – Two weeks after being out of the cast and using the boot (and one week after abandoning my crutches), I was given the “ok!” to get back to my normal life! The boot was removed and I was given a special ankle brace to wear for a week, after which I would be allowed to start dancing again. That same day, I was able to start physical therapy; in addition to exercises tailored to me, my physical therapists (PTs) also use other methods to facilitate my rehabilitation. These methods include massage and a technique called dry-needling, pictured below alongside pictures of x-rays from that same day.

October 25 – My first day back at ballet! Ok, I admit, I cheated — I went back to class one day earlier than I was originally supposed to. But have no fear, it’s all good! My physical therapists were totally ok with it, as I was progressing quickly already. My first day, I only did barre. At this point, I was also not doing anything on demi-pointe.

October 26 – Just a day later, my PTs allowed me to begin working on demi-pointe. I was really progressing quickly! It was very difficult for me to rise on to demi-pointe, especially so when it was a single-leg rise on my left leg — in fact, I could hardly do it at all! This is understandable, considering how atrophied my muscles were. For a while, I was doing my best to try to get up on demi-pointe, but was unable to actually do it well; this only lasted a short while, but it is worth noting that there was a period in the beginning when I was only rising up on demi-pointe when I was on both feet or only on my right foot. Thankfully it was a short period. It is also worth mentioning that I did have some pain still at this point. As a matter of fact, I still do now, even though it is much improved. If anyone is wondering, the pain was mostly throughout my metatarsals, around my ankle (which was extremely stiff from having been immobilized for such a length of time), and on the balls of my foot (because the muscles there were atrophied as well and so I had no padding — this made it very difficult to try to rise up on demi-pointe, because it felt as if I was putting all my weight on just the bones underneath my foot, which was rather painful.) Even though I had pain, it was all pain that was expected; my physical therapists were ok with that kind of pain, as long as I wasn’t feeling any pain on the outer left side of my foot where the fracture was. Any other pain was [is] just muscular and was [is] ok.

November 16 – After three weeks of being back to ballet, I was approved to start jumps again! By this point, I was already able to rise up to demi-pointe on only my left leg from quite some time and with minimal issues.

November 18 – My latest visit to the orthopedist! This was my 4-week follow-up. I was nervous! But it turns out there was nothing to be worried about, because after taking a look at the x-rays, my orthopedist told me she was very pleased with how my foot looks and that it’s doing really well. Needless to say, I was so relieved!

November 29 – Yesterday, which happened to be exactly 5 weeks since I had first started dancing again, I was allowed to go back en pointe! It went really well, as I said earlier, and I am so excited that I am now back to doing full classes! In honor of the occasion yesterday, here is a picture of some more needling we did in physical therapy to prepare me better for going up en pointe!

Looking back at all this, I really couldn’t be happier with my progress. It’s been a total of 13 weeks (and 2 days) since I injured myself (that’s just over 3 months), and just a day over 5 weeks that I’ve been back to ballet, and as of yesterday I am back to doing a full class each time, which is really a great improvement. Now that I did pointe yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised by it not being as difficult as I initially expected it to be, I am looking forward to what the future has in store for me even more; and, I am way more confident that I can continue with this year and all the plans I had for it as if nothing ever happened! For those that are wondering, these plans include, but are not at all limited to: participating in YAGP for the last year I am eligible; performing as a guest artist in a concert in February (most likely doing a PDD); and beginning the audition process for the many academies (mainly abroad, in Europe) that I am set to audition for (as well as, maybe, some professional theater auditions — TBD).

So, nothing is set in stone, but what with the way things are going, it looks as if everyone was right — I am coming out of this stronger than I was going in. I guess it’s true. What doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger!

I just have to share, as an example — yesterday during pointe we did pique turns from the corner. Now, I’ve always loved these and been particularly good at them…on my right side. I always had trouble with my left. Now, remember that yesterday was my first day back en pointe. But guess what? My pique turns to the left were just as good as my pique turns to the right! So I can definitely say that, if anything, something good did at least come out of this! And that is that I no longer have such a discrepancy between my ability to do pique turns on my right as compared to my left. And this is a big deal! So I am very happy. Oh, and as another note of my progress, my pirouettes have improved considerably. Yesterday they were absolutely on, and I was doing clean triples. My jumps, which I tend to excel at, at least more so than turns, are also significantly better and are improving each day.

All in all? I’m a happy girl!

If you have any questions about my injury, physical therapy, your own injuries/concerns, please do not hesitate to ask. While I am not a doctor by any means, and definitely not a substitute for one, I (unfortunately for me) have plenty of experience with injuries and would gladly share my experiences and advice with you if you ask for it. In addition, I hope that this timeline of sorts could potentially help someone who develops a similar injury — I know I would have liked to see something like this when I first injured myself, so that I might get an idea of what recovery would be like, even keeping in mind that it can vary among different persons. So, please, comments and/or questions are most definitely welcome! 

I wish you all a good day and a happy non-Thanksgiving (because break is over, and we’re back at ballet! Woohoo!)

One thought on “Back ‘on my toes’ – an update on my foot!

  1. Pingback: Last Post of 2011! And what a year it has been… « Noa Blogs Ballet

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