4 Common Dance Injuries
Injuries can be devastating to a dancer, but you can help reduce their impact if you act promptly to get the correct advice and physiotherapy treatment.
One of the most common issues that Dancers have is an imbalance in Strength and Flexibility. As the dancer matures, so does the technical difficulty of the dance class. When flexibility and strength are compromised, injury can ensue. It is very common for a dancer to have left and right-sided strength or flexibility disparities. These disparities may influence the body’s natural biomechanics causing a reduction in the synchronicity and balance of movement. When motion occurs repetitively over time trauma begins to accumulate in vulnerable areas of the body.
1. Neck and Back Pain:
Lifting, arching and improper technique can all overwork and strain the lower-back. Dancers with an exaggerated lordosis (lower-back curve) are more prone to muscle spasms.
Choreography that calls for excessive head movement can easily strain dancers’ neck muscles, especially if dancers do not properly use the full spine when arching the head/neck.
Prevention Tip: “Lengthen the neck rather than collapse it,” says Anila. “I like using the image of the fountains at the Peace Gardens in Sheffield: a long, graceful arch”.
Dancers will often do very well with conservative treatment of low back strains and spasm. Initial treatment will include rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory tablets. A physiotherapist can help identify areas of weakness, tightness, or postural faults that may predispose the dancer to injury. The dancer may also want to critically look at any technical faults including lifting technique in order to help prevent future injury.
2. Lateral Ankle Sprain:
The dancer’s feet are comparable to a concert pianist’s hands. A ligament tear can happen when the outside of the ankle rolls inward after a loss of balance landing from a jump. Dancers, like gymnasts, require good stability of the ankle in all positions. If the torn lateral ligaments heal poorly they can remain badly scarred and stretched, this laxity can lead to chronic instability and is likely to adversely affect performance.
Regardless of the method of injury, adequate physiotherapy with proper rehabilitation is the most likely to restore normal use and dance performance.
3. Achilles Tendonitis:
“My heel and lower calf hurt, particularly while running or jumping”. Most cases of Achilles tendonitis are due to overtraining of the dancer, particularly heavy training during a short period of time. Other contributing factors for Achilles inflammation could be:
•Returning to dance after a long period of rest
•A lack of flexibility in the calf muscles
•Dancing on a hard surface or a non-sprung floor
Early identification of overuse injuries can assist in its recovery. Rest and ice are immediate treatments for conditions that do not allow for pain free activity. Stretching of the Achilles can be helpful, however dancers need to exercise caution as stretching the Achilles to the point of pain or discomfort can provoke rather than alleviate the pain. Stretching and strengthening exercises should therefore be introduced gradually and increased progressively. For chronic conditions, the use of an overnight splint can be helpful. Orthotic prescription can also sometimes be beneficial. Physiotherapy treatment to restore the normal mobility to the joints of the foot, stretch out and massage tight muscles and electrotherapy treatments such as ultrasound to the painful area can greatly assist with symptom relief and improve the rate of healing and repair.
4. Shoulder Tendon Injuries:
Extensive use of the arms such as overhead lifts can lead to tears in upper-arm tendons or a condition called “shoulder impingement”, which occurs when pain is felt in the shoulder due to the bones coming together as arm is lifted trapping the tendon.
In most cases a tendon injury can be treated within a short period of time with soft tissue physiotherapy procedures and exercises. In more complicated or severe cases other areas of the body such as neck can be involved and will require treatment. Without this understanding shoulder injuries can become longstanding problems blighting a dancers performance and enjoyment.
Initial treatment for shoulder impingement involves ice, rest, and physiotherapy treatment to reduce the pressure on the damaged tendon by releasing tight joints and tissues so that it can heal. For chronic cases, a physiotherapist may recommend a steroid injection to assist decreasing the inflammation in the joint. In more severe cases a Dancer with an, unresolved impingement condition may be a candidate for a surgical technique to decompress the tendon.
Prompt evaluation and physiotherapy treatment can facilitate long lasting benefits for dancers, and reduce the risk of damaging or career threatening injuries. Early intervention and treatment can save money, time and potential long-term disability. Intervening with young dancers can set a positive tone for future injury prevention and knowledge.
Injury Prevention Tips for Dancers:
- Proper training is essential to allow dancers to develop their skills without injury.
- Take adequate rest to allow the body to heal itself from daily wear and tear.
- Maintain energy levels by eating healthy.
- Conditioning and strengthening of the leg muscles that support the foot arch are crucial.
- Try to avoid dancing on hard or uneven surfaces, which may cause injury.
- Take care of your shoes!
- Dancers should adopt new training schedules slowly.
- Stretching before and after the training (30sec) Off stage or out of class, wear supportive footwear, and if you need to wear orthotics, wear them as often as possible.
- If dancers perform excessive pointe or demi-pointe work one day, they should focus on other types of work during the next workout.
Early recognition of symptoms of injury is important. Stop activity if pain or swelling occurs. If the pain persists after a few days rest, and consult a Physiotherapist.