By: Dr. Jennifer Kragten Ro
Watching my daughters dance over the past few years has been an amazing experience. Not only are dancers some of the fittest, most flexible and strongest of athletes, their mental perseverance, social skills, and confidence is incredible. However, there is always a downside. Dancer’srepetitive motions, extreme stretching and unbalanced movements can cause a lot of strain, injury and pain throughout the body.
Some of the most common injuries I see as a chiropractor are headaches caused by vigorous head movements, low back strain from stretching and arching the lower back, ankle sprain, knee injuries and neck pain to say the least. These things just come with the territory. Any athlete who trains in a competitive sport, is bound to have some part of their body become overworked. The good news is, if you take care of your dancer’s body you can manage, heal and even prevent injuries from happening.
Here are some things you can do to help…
1. ICE ICE BABY!
Ice is very helpful to acute and chronic injuries. It helps by reducing pain, swelling, muscle spasm and inflammation at the site of injury. It’s also a great way to manage pain without turning to over the counter pain medications. You can use ice on and off throughout the day...but it is especially useful after a night of dance for those sore spots.
2. Epsom salt baths:
After a rigorous dance class your body can be pretty tired. By adding Epsom salts to a warm bath after dance you can help replenish magnesium levels in your body. Magnesium is extremely important for normal nerve and muscle function and helps to relieve muscle cramps, sprains, strains and inflammation. Kids today are verydepleted in Magnesium...so why not take a bath and absorb it through your skin? You can do this a few times a week even, just make sure to drink a glass of water after. Here’s the general recommendations...
Children under 60 lbs: Add 1/2 cup of salts to a standard size bath
Individuals between 60-100 lbs: Add 1 cup of salts to a standard size bath
Individuals between 100-150 lbs: Add 1 1/2 cup of salts to a standard size bath
3. Arnica Gel:
This product is a little secret gem I use all the time! Arnica has healing properties within it and is totally natural, fragrance free and doesn’t heat up on the skin (which is great for little ones who are sensitive). Arnica is effective for strains, sprains, bruises and chronic pain injuries. You can rub it on the area of concern 3-5 times a day and is safe to use. It’s easily found at health food stores, or grocery stores in the healthy living isle.
4. Take your vitamins!
When we replenish our bodies of the nutrients we are depleted in, our bodies function better.
The top 3 supplements I recommend for dancers are:
a) A good vitamin (free of dyes and artificial flavours). When our bodies have the proper nutrients from a good diet and a daily vitamin our body can feel and HEAL much better.
b) Probiotics. These help boost the immune system of dancers when they are overworked and overtired by increasing the healthy bacteria in our gut. 80% of our immunity is through our digestion so it’s important to have established a healthy environment in our bodies. When we aren’t sick as often, we avoid injuries.
c) Fish oil is extremely healthy for our bodies and our brains! And unfortunately kids and teens today are so depleted. Adding a teaspoon of fish oil every day can help boost brain function, increase proper hormone production, improve skin and digestion and especially control inflammation from injuries. There are so many benefits of fish oil I could write an entire article just on that!
In the next few months we will be coming up on the competitive season. As dancers and dance parents, we want to make sure our dancer is as healthy as possible. While it’s near impossible to prevent every injury from happening, we can definitely try to take care of ourselves as best we can.
Have a healthy day dancers!
Things Dancers Stress About
Tonight I am going to write about some of the things dancers worry about and determine if it's "worth it" or not to allow that anxiety into your body.
Comparing Yourself to Others: It is natural to look at other dancers and wish you could jump, turn, bend or move like them. But being envious can actually ruin your own dancing. Remember, you are not in their body, you are in your body. Try not worry about what other dancers are able to do. Focus the energy you're using to look at other dancers on your own dancing. Each day try to push yourself a little further.
Audition/Performance Stress: You may not "feel ready" for a performance but that's anxiety talking and trying to bring you down. Stop that thinking right away and start transfering it into positive thoughts of focus. Try doing some breathing exercises to clear your mind. Don't stress! You have worked hard and you can do it.
Trying to Impress Others: We often do things to try to make other people happy. It could be a teacher, parent, friend or classmate. When it comes to dance we might try a little harder because we know dad is watching the class on the tv tonight....or grandma is here to observe the class...But most beautiful dancers are the ones who dance for themselves. I remember a judge commenting at a competition last season saying how the dancer had great technique and it was fantastic choreography but the dancer looked like they were having fun and "lived it" It was fun to watch them dance and you wanted to watch more.
Scheduling Stress: It's difficult to juggle school, homework, dance and for some of us a part-time job. To lessen this stress, you have to stay organized and in control. Buy a calendar so that you can clearly mark when your assignments/homework are due. The more detailed you are on paper, the less you have to remember in your brain (save that room for choreography). I found if you have a routine and stick to it, life becomes a whole lot easier.
Remembering Choreography and/or Technique: Dancers are required to recall a lot of information. They have to remember how and when to jump, turn & plié... the choreography and the counts. It can be a lot to take in. One way to alleviate anxiety is to keep a dance notebook or video. If you have a cell phone ask someone to tape the run through so you can watch it again later. Often when practicing at home, I forget the next move...it is great to be able to go back and look at a video. It also helps to watch the video in your spare time to see what you need to improve on. Sometimes you feel like a move looks better than it is. I have watched some videos and realized that my shoulders are rising when I jump or my foot is not turned out enough.
"I do not try to dance better then anyone else. I only try to dance better than myself"-
Like everything you do in life, there is always a starting place. When building a house, you don't start with the roof, you start by building a solid foundation. This is the same with dance. You must establish proper technique, and all teachers will tell you that Ballet is the foundation to all dance.
Some students will say that Ballet is boring or slow, when in actuality Ballet is very rigorous and demanding and requires a great deal of physical and mental control. Students will often say- " I only dance Hip Hop so I don't need Ballet training" yet it has been shown that people who started in Hip Hop and found Ballet later say they "felt improvement in their ability to change weight quickly, hit cleans lines faster, focus and stay in the moment and became physically and mentally stronger"
Think of Ballet technique as taking Vitamins. Even if Ballet is not your main focus, the practice will supplement your dancing. It will help you maintain and improve overall technique, coordination, body awareness, flexibility, musicality, core strength and focus.