Dance is a beautiful expression of movement. Dancers can make these movements appear effortless but we know this is not the case. Repetition and lots of practice is required to make these movements seem effortless. Unfortunately, the hours of work can sometimes take their toll and result in injuries.
The majority of injuries we see in dancers involve muscle imbalances. Early recognition of these imbalances can help prevent injuries from occurring. The ankle, knee, hip and low back are areas that are commonly affected by imbalances of muscular flexibility and strength.
Achilles tendonitis is an injury commonly seen at the ankle. Dancing “en pointe” or in the “releve” position and repetitive jumping can cause tight calves which put strain on the Achilles tendon. Stretching the calf muscles on a regular basis can help prevent this injury from occurring.
Pain behind the knee cap (patella) is another common complaint amongst dancers. Patellar malalignment due to tight outer and weak inner quadriceps muscles in combination with increased retropatellar forces during repetitive deep knee bends and jumps can cause the pain and inflammation behind the patella. Proper quadriceps stretching and inner quads strengthening will help keep the patella in proper alignment.
The hip muscles are responsible for good balance and adequate turnout. Certain hip muscles must also be extremely flexible to permit the large excursion of hip movement required for particular dance exercises. The imbalance between strength and flexibility leads to muscle strains. Decreased strength of the hip external rotators causes decreased turnout. The dancer then compensates by torquing through their feet, knees and lower back to achieve further turnout which can also injure those joints. Proper hip strengthening will prevent this problem.
Low back pain in dancers is often a result of increased curvature of the lumbar spine and poor lower trunk stability. Tight hip flexors and weak lower abdominal muscles are often the culprits. Appropriate stretching and strengthening can prevent low back pain from occurring.
Recognizing and treating common muscle imbalances in dancers before they start producing pain is the key to injury prevention. Wishing you all the best for injury-free dancing!!