Web Exclusive - Ask Amy

Published in the June/July 2014 issue.

Photo by Nathan Sayers

I’m often cast in turning roles, which I love. But especially after fouettés, my left knee is sore, and it feels like the muscles are inflamed. Should I be worried? —Claudia

I asked Dr. William Hamilton, a New York City orthopedic surgeon who specializes in dance medicine, to weigh in. He thinks your pain could be caused by a lack of strength because the muscles are being asked to do more than they’re able. This occurs when the muscles in the thigh atrophy, or waste away. Or, it’s possible your knee feels sore from overuse, or because it’s protecting something else inside the knee. His advice? Take three to four days off to rest. Hamilton also recommends investing in Pilates classes for extra strengthening. If it still bothers you after a week, seek treatment from a dance medicine specialist. “A therapist will be able to evaluate your knee to determine what the problem is and give you appropriate treatment,” says Cynthia McGee Laportilla, senior physical therapist and dance medicine department director for the Miami City Ballet.

It’s useful to have one of your teachers evaluate your technique while you turn. “There might be some positive change that you can make in your turning technique that can alleviate some or all of the stress on your knee,” says Laportilla. Also, while you may love a post-class fouetté fest, limit the number of turns you do at a time to avoid irritating your knee. Ice and elevate your leg after class to calm down inflamed muscles. If you’re still having pain after a few weeks, make an appointment with your doctor.