Dancer Health

Oh, Toenail Woes! Prevent and Treat Common Nail Injuries

Thinkstock

Few problems are as painful and unsightly as a battered toenail. Sarah Chisholm, a dancer with Ballet Arizona, knows this well. She has suffered from chronic bruised and ingrown nails throughout much of her career. “It's hard to focus on your work when you're always worrying about how much your feet hurt," she says. “You don't get to think about the joy that comes from dancing."

Dancers spend hours crammed into sweaty shoes, making them great candidates for ingrown nails, bruising and nail fungus. Though these aren't usually threatening enough to force someone to take time off, they can cause days, weeks or even months of painful distraction. Many nail problems can be prevented by taking small precautions.


Bruised Toenails

A bruised nail might last several months, and the condition can be extremely painful. Often caused by stubbing the toe or knuckling over on pointe, the nail shifts over its bed where many blood vessels meet, causing bleeding under the nail. Long toenails and tight shoes or pointe shoe boxes that don't match a dancer's foot type can also put excessive pressure on the toes.

After bruising, ice the foot to soothe the pain. And regularly clean the area to prevent infection. “The dried blood under the nail bed is a breeding ground for bacteria," says podiatrist Dr. Thomas Novella, who works with New York City dancers.

The nail may eventually loosen or fall off, but keep it intact as long as possible. “Band-Aid or tape it in place until a new nail begins to grow," says Novella. Toenails grow just 1–2 millimeters per month, so it can take up to a year for a new one to fully form.

While growing a new nail, Chisholm applies 2nd Skin, a jelly-like adhesive that can be cut to size. “I stick it on my toenail, and it acts as a buffer," she says. “It's very cooling and helps with impact."

Ingrown Toenails

Ingrown toenails are common in young dancers, whose nail plates have not yet strengthened, and those with nails that curve side to side. Chronic bruising can also damage nail beds enough so they grow back incorrectly, says Atlanta Ballet podiatrist Dr. Frank Sinkoe. “If it's disrupted, it can cause an abnormality," he says. Trim the nail to match the toe's shape to help prevent ingrowns; be careful not to cut too far into the corners.

To soften the nail as it grows out, soak the foot in an Epsom salt and warm water bath. Resist the urge to pick; it could cause infection. If the pain is unbearable or there is swelling, redness and increased skin temperature, see a podiatrist. If it's not infected, they can pack cotton deep under the nail. “This helps guide the skin away from the nail as it grows," says Novella. In chronic cases, podiatrists can permanently remove the sides of the nail as a preventive measure.

Toenail Fungus

Fungal toenails are rarely painful, but they're extremely unsightly and hard to treat. The nails are yellowed, thick and crumbly, and the surrounding skin is red and scaly. They often have a yeasty odor and powdery debris.

Novella says to seek help after noticing symptoms because “addressing fungus early will help a lot in the long run." To diagnose the fungus, a podiatrist sends a snippet of the nail to a lab, and if confirmed, may suggest topical creams. Oral medications are most effective, but they can cause serious side effects like liver damage.

To prevent toenail fungus, change socks frequently and dry out dance shoes and toe pads. “Funghi is Italian for mushrooms. And where do mushrooms like to grow? Moist, dark places, like under logs—or inside sweaty shoes," says Novella. He adds that the condition is contagious, so students should avoid sharing shoes, socks and nail clippers.

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Mitchell Button, courtesy of the artist

Dusty Button prefers music with a range. "There needs to be a beginning, a climax and a strong ending. Like a movie," she says. The award-winning dancer, who joined American Ballet Theatre's second company, ABT II, at 18, has always been drawn to lyric-free tracks filled with dynamic phrasing, rhythms and composition. "Whether it's the violin, piano or cello, instrumental music gives me more inspiration. I want the dancers and the audience to feel something new," she adds.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network

When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (OK, maybe more excited.)

This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Photo via Claudia Dean World on YouTube

Most parents start off pretty clueless when it comes to doing their dancer's hair. If you don't want your students coming in with elastic-wrapped bird's nests on their heads, you may want to give them some guidance. But who has time to teach each individual parent how to do their child's hair? Not you! So, we have a solution: YouTube hair tutorials.

These three classical hairdo vids are exactly what your dancers need to look fabulous and ready to work every time they step in your studio.

Enjoy!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
To Share With Students
Via @madisongoodman_ on Instagram

Nationals season is behind us, but we just aren't quite over it yet. We've been thinking a lot about the freakishly talented winners of these competitions, and want to know a bit more about the people who got them to where they are. So, we asked three current national title holders to tell us the most powerful piece of advice their dance teacher ever gave them. What they have to say will melt your heart.

Way to go, dance teachers! Your'e doing amazing things for the rising generation!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

Enrollment is an issue that plagues brand-new and veteran studio owners alike. Without a steady stream of revenue from new students coming through your doors, your studio won't survive—no matter how crisp your dancers' technique is or how well-produced your recitals are.

Enrollment—in biz speak, customer acquisition and retention—depends on your business' investment in marketing. How effectively you get the word out about your studio will directly influence the number of people who register. Successful businesses typically use certain tried-and-true marketing strategies to recruit and retain clients or customers. These four studio owners' tricks for kicking enrollment into high gear are modeled after classic marketing techniques.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox