Two years ago, I started having severe ankle pains during class. The pain was so excruciating that I couldn’t even pointe my foot. Unfortunately, this all happened just a few weeks before YAGP (ballet competition). So, I went to my doctor and he suggested a cortisone shot. Obviously I had heard of them before and was asking around to see what people’s opinions were. I was getting very mixed replies. Some people say they’re great and help a lot with the pain and others were saying that they’re extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, cortisone shots don’t heal injuries, they just temporarily get rid of the pain and, at that time, that was all I needed. So I got the cortisone shot and my ankle felt great. I could dance freely with no pain, until the cortisone started wearing off… This past year while I was dancing with Pennsylvania Ballet in the Nutcracker, I started having ankle pain again. Most dancers can relate to how stressful Nutcracker is and how physically demanding it is. In January, I was told I needed surgery to remove scar tissue in my achilles. I did not get the surgery for “job related reasons” and still have not to this day. Instead, after a few months of resting and physical therapy with no progress, I got another cortisone shot (for the same original injury from the year before). The pain was gone again and I was able to dance without pain. But something strange was happening, my ankle was getting weaker and skinnier and I noticed scars and discoloring. At this time, I was again competing at YAGP hoping to get a job for this upcoming year. Through the struggles and disappointments, I had very few intentions of continuing my dance career until I got a call saying that San Francisco Ballet wanted to offer me full scholarship for their summer program and look at me for trainee this upcoming fall. And to think, just a few days before I was considering quitting… Before coming out here to San Francisco, I went to my doctor to talk about the discoloring in my ankle. When he saw what was happening he immediately apologized. Apparently, the cortisone was literally “disintegrating my skin from the inside out”. His words; not mine. And you can see the scars from where the two injections were made. I am now in San Francisco attempting to dance only to find out on the second day that things were much worse than expected. Not only has the pain started again, but I am no longer allowed to get anymore cortisone shots. The pain is worse than ever because I have literally been putting off this injury for over two years. I went to a doctor out here and she told me that the cortisone has weakened the ankle and narrowed the muscle. If I were to keep dancing on it, the tendon could snap in the next year or so. I was told to rest for a few months and start physical therapy to attempt to gain more strength in the tendon. Now, unfortunately, because my injured ankle is so narrow, there’s very little possibility to get the surgery that I still need to remove the scar tissue. I am still waiting on an MRI and have yet to decide whether or not I will be continuing dancing. So… the moral of the story:
I’m sure no one is actually going to read all of this. But people need to be warned about the down sides to cortisone injections. DON’T GET THEM! Yes, it gets rid of the pain and feels great for however long but you’re not healing anything. In fact, you’re making it worse by continuing to dance (workout, exercise, etc.) The cortisone will only numb the pain for the time being and delay the healing process of your injury. So, please, take my advice and steer clear of cortisone injections.