Performing repetitive movements for hours a day coupled with a low amount of recovery time increases a dancer’s risk for chronic overuse injuries. Most dance injuries are not acute “accident” injuries but instead are cumulative microtraumas. Meaning it’s a lot of little injuries over time that can cause big problems.
It is important to not ignore these injuries because the longer they go on the longer the healing time is. Here are a few things you can do to prevent overuse/chronic injuries and stop the cycle of pain if you are currently experiencing this type of injury.
Correct muscular and mobility imbalances The demands of dance can cause extreme physical imbalances. Muscles used most in dance can end up overworked while others are underutilized and weak. Dancers also suffer from mobility imbalances. Your feet may have a great amount of plantarflexion (pointing) but could be limited in dorsiflexion (flexing). program that balances out your strength and mobility can help reduce the risk of injuries.
Correct Alignment & Mechanical Issues Address Faulty Movement Patterns, many reoccurring injuries are a result of a 'functional pathology' (meaning a problem associated with movement). Even dancers with the best training and technique can have a small alignment issue that is causing pain. Dance is extremely challenging, and dancers are trained to achieve a certain “look” in the way their feet are pointed, the legs are extended, and hips are turned out. However, if a dancer lacks external rotation at the hip, as an example, they will often compensate by pronating their feet to achieve the range of motion necessary for dance. This can result in an injury overtime.
Provide Adequate Shock Absorption Unlike athletic sneakers dance shoes provide little shock absorption. Dancers may transmit up to six times their body weight while jumping. It is important to combat this additional stress on the body by dancing on properly sprung floors, have properly fitted shoes, as well as learning proper jumping and landing mechanics. Proper alignment can greatly reduce stress through the joints.
For dancers on pointe the right fit is key. I highly recommend The Pointe Shop as an amazing resource to help you find your perfect shoe. *They are now offering virtual fittings*
Avoid Excessive Training Over-training can be defined as training that exceeds the body’s ability to recover, resulting in excessive fatigue and impaired performance. An over-trained body has more frequent missed steps, bad landings, and strained muscles and tendons
For our young dancers over-training could be defined as too much time in the studio. Many research projects have also found that young athletes should avoid specialization in one sport before puberty and the hours spent in the studio each week should not exceed a dancers chronological age. Too much, or too intensive of training, early on can lead to repetitive trauma to tendons, bones, and joints can limit their career later on.
Most importantly, don’t ignore an injury!
The longer an overuse injury goes untreated the longer it can take to heal. The best defense for limiting your time away from the studio is to seek treatment right away.