Dancers are some of the most athletic people on the planet yet dance, especially ballet, takes a toll on dancers’ bodies over time. Let’s face it – some positions are completely unnatural and require us to tweak things, especially our spines, to create the desired effect. Many dancers deal with injuries throughout their careers; many more have ongoing issues after they stop performing. Although I was relatively injury-free throughout my career, I had (and continue to have) back issues. It’s all got me wondering: what’s a dancer to do?
There are a number of healing options to turn to, depending on the type and severity of your injury.
1. Physical therapists. Miami City Ballet, like many other companies, had a therapist on site to help dancers when they got hurt. Therapists offer a range of ideas, from simple (like icing or massage) to more in-depth (rehab exercises to strengthen injury-prone areas). Best thing I ever learned from a therapist: contrast baths. Alternate icing and hot water on the injured area to stimulate blood flow and healing.
2. Chiropractors. There is no one way to realign tweaked body parts. Some chiropractors use more active force, others opt for a more gentle method. I have had varying degrees of success with chiropractors and generally use them for things like not being able to turn my head all of a sudden.
3. Massage. Who doesn’t love a good massage? A gentle Swedish-style massage will help the body relax while a deeper, therapeutic massage can work out the tight kinks. I’m currently looking into Rolfing as an option for recurrent issues.
4. Acupuncture. I was lucky enough to study with Merrill Ashley, (awesome dancer and teacher) who swore by acupuncture for back issues… Since then I’ve used acupuncture for everything from colds/flu to post childbirth.
5. Yoga. If nothing else, yoga’s calming influence is a good counterpart to the stress dancers live with. As I get older, I’ve come to rely on yoga as a sanctuary and a way to maintain flexibility. A flexible body is less prone to injury.