Nathan Sayers for Dance Magazine

Ask Amy: The Truth About Forcing Your Turnout

Lately I've been having problems with my ankles. After class, they hurt around the bones. I don't know what would be causing this, besides the fact that I force my turnout a bit. But wouldn't that affect my knees? —Katie


Forcing your turnout can affect numerous parts of the body, not just your knees. When you wrench your knees, ankles and feet into a position that's beyond their natural limits, you put extra pressure on your bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles in order to hold them there. This affects your entire alignment, causing you to grip and compensate.

Dr. John Brummer, a podiatric surgeon who consults with the School at Steps in New York City, says that forcing your turnout can irritate and inflame the ligaments around the ankle joint. "When you push your ankle bones against those ligaments, you put undue pressure on them, causing a strain injury," he says. Icing your ankles after class, as well as taking anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen, can ease your symptoms. You should also make an appointment with a podiatrist or orthopedist to get an official diagnosis and, if necessary, a prescription for physical therapy.

Forcing your turnout

might feel like no big deal,

but it affects your entire alignment.

If you continue to torque your feet, you could weaken the ligaments further, making you more susceptible to ankle sprains, says Brummer. Ask your teacher for help correcting and monitoring your alignment. Before combinations, be very careful not to take a "bottom-up" approach by planting your feet into 180 degrees (and then wriggling the rest of your body into place). Instead, try to work with your natural turnout, using your hip muscles to safely hold it.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.

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