When you spend countless hours sweating it out at the dance studio, it’s important to give your body the rest and recovery it needs in order to prevent injury and rebuild, so you can make the most of your training. While there are a lot of strategies for recovery you can (and should) do at home on a regular basis, there are a lot of benefits to working with a professional practitioner. They can help with chronic pain, identify impediments to the training process, and help prevent injury.
Please note, if you have an acute injury with significant or lingering pain, swelling, or inability to bear weight, your should seek prompt medical care. Even with mild symptoms, it can be helpful to pay a visit to your primary care physician, as they can help you formulate a treatment plan and refer you to other practitioners.
Here are some common practitioners a dancer might visit and when...
Physiatrist, Sports Medicine Physicians
- Effective for: all types of chronic and acute issues, an excellent first stop
- Doctors who specializes in injuries involving muscles, bones and connective tissue as well as the brain and spinal cord
- At an initial visit they will test your joints for flexibility, strength, and balance, and watch how you walk
- Treatments might include dry needling (a type of acupuncture), muscle injections of steroids, lidocaine or other medications, physical therapy, exercise plans or referrals to other practitioners based on their assessment
- Effective for: preventing muscular imbalances that lead to injury, pain relief, increasing range of motion
- While there are a range of techniques, it’s important to seek out a registered massage therapist when addressing athletic concerns
Physical Therapists, Certified Athletic Trainers
- Effective for: getting back in shape after an injury, treating chronic pain through correcting movement patterns, preventing injuries
- May suggest exercises and stretches for homework to help improve alignment, range of motion, muscular balance and technique
- Often provide manual treatments like assisted stretches and joint mobilization as well
- Effective for: immediately felt results, treating chronic pain, mobility issues
- employ a range of techniques that aim to help bones become better aligned
- Most well-known for providing “adjustments”, where force is applied to a joint on an exhale and a loud “pop” sound is heard
- might supplement their treatments with other modalities such as acupuncture or massage.
- Effective for: a wide range of chronic and injury-related concerns, for example, they might look at how the shape of your pelvis affects your turn out
- Use their hands to help rebalance the body’s systems, including high-velocity adjustments (often associated with chiropractor) or more subtle cranial-sacral techniques which feel like gentle pressure, lifting or lengthening.
- Rely minimally on medication and favour preventative care
- Receive extension training in the interrelationship of the body’s structure and function
- Effective for: physical symptoms such as swelling and muscle strains as well as mental challenges like anxiety and exhaustion
- Form of ancient medicine that inserts very thin needles under the skin to alter the body’s energy, it can act as a “reset button”
Most dance injuries are neither spontaneous nor completely debilitating. They often develop gradually due to poor alignment, overuse or stress, which means that paying attention to your body and being proactive can help prevent injury altogether and optimize your training. Paying attention to patterns like chronically tight muscles, hips that click during certain movements or ankles that are cranky every morning can make all the difference.
Depending on your goals or concerns, it can take some trial and error to find the right solution. Don’t be frustrated if the professional you choose refers you to a different expert. If you aren’t seeing progress in 3 or 4 sessions, or your progress has plateaued, you should try another approach. A reliable practitioner should know their limitations and have a good idea who you should see next. You might also need to use a combination of therapies to perform at your best. So, whether you’re dealing with an injury, chronic pain or you just want to maximize your training, working with a wellness practitioner is undeniably, worth it.