rehab

5 Ways To Keep Injury From Ruining Your Dance Career

Many dancers fear injury, and worse, avoid fully addressing their pain or injury once it's happened. Unfortunately, this avoidance can escalate an injury and prolong pain, which makes the recovery process even more difficult. Having a focused and thoughtful approach to injury recovery can help you keep injury from ruining your dance career and can even help you become a stronger and healthier dancer. 

As I look forward to presenting at summer dance intensives for both Dancenter North and Millennium Dance Center this week, I am sharing my hands-down best advice possible to help you heal well after injury so you can keep your dancer career alive and thriving. I have seen these basic practices help many dancers get and stay healthy- I hope they will help you, too.

SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE. 

Many dancers avoid seeing a doctor or physical therapist because they fear being told to stop dancing. The problem is, NOT addressing a problem doesn’t make it go away- it makes it worse. If you are injured or in pain, get it checked out and don’t stop until you get the care you need to fully recover. The time you think you might lose from seeking care is nothing compared to the time you stand to lose if you don't get the help you need now. So, go out and...

FIND HELP THAT MEETS YOUR NEEDS.

Find a physician and/or therapist that will listen fully to your concerns and who will address them to your satisfaction. If your goal is to continue dancing, your doctor or physical therapist should do everything possible to help you do that. While finding the right person to help you can take some work, trying to recover from an injury completely on your own is even tougher. Don’t give up on yourself if you can’t get the answers you need- keep asking. 

DON’T OVERUSE ICE.

Ice can be helpful to reduce pain and swelling if you’ve overdone it. However, you should never need ice on a consistent basis. A much safer and more effective method of managing symptoms is to adjust how much and how hard you are dancing to a level that doesn’t cause you pain or swelling. Your dancing will actually progress much more quickly if you don’t have to spend so much time and effort recovering from it. 

STAY ACTIVE.

Movement is a critical part of the healing process. However, movement that puts you in pain or worsens your injury will not help you heal. Work with your physical therapist on ways that you can stay active and as safe as possible while you recover. If your doctor has not recommended physical therapy, ask for it. 

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. 

While some aches and pains are a normal part of the experience of pushing your body to its limits, pain that is persistent or keeps you from moving and dancing normally should be addressed as quickly as possible. Ignoring pain or thinking that you can just “work through it” puts you on the path toward more severe injury and more time lost from dancing. Your body is smart- it knows how to take care of you. Listen to it. 

Defining Success

When I am teaching a new exercise to a client, I often modify the exercise to better suit that client's individual needs. My clients sometimes protest my suggested change. They resist making the modification and ask me some form of the question, "But if I do it this way... I'm not really doing it, am I?" 

I get it. We are usually working with a physical therapist because something is going wrong and we want to do all the right things to help ourselves get better. Doing an exercise with textbook form may seem like the right thing to do. However, if we pursue perfection before our body is ready for it, we put ourselves on the fast track to pain city. On the other hand, to not do an exercise the way we think it's supposed be done feels like failure. 

At the heart of this problem lies a key question: How do we define success? Is success based on outcome... or action? Even though the ultimate goal of rehab is to return to doing everything we love to do (outcome), the best way to reach that goal might be to simply find ways to move without pain (action). We can't reach our destination without traveling the path that leads to it.

Today, I encourage you to release yourself from the expectation of a perfect outcome and, instead, celebrate the success of taking action. 


Squat Success

Are you apprehensive about squatting because of knee pain or because you think that squatting may damage your knees? You are not alone. Although some people do experience knee pain when squatting, the squat itself is not to blame. 

A squat is simply a bending of the legs that brings our body closer to the ground. It's a worthwhile exercise because it helps us better able to reach things on the floor or under the counter, get up and down from chairs, and get up and down from the floor. Pain that occurs while squatting is most likely just a signal that our bodies need a little more help to be able to squat successfully. 

Please take a look at this video to learn how to find ways to build a more successful squat. 

Is a squat that doesn't conform to "correct squat form" still a squat? Yes! Is it still worth doing if it's not perfect? Yes!! Use this information to help you find a way of squatting that feels great to you. If you love squats and feel great doing them, please use these squat variations to build even more flexibility and strength. 

**Please do not continue any exercise that causes you pain or poses a risk to your safety. If pain is keeping you from moving normally or exercising, please seek individualized care from a physical therapist or physician so you can start feeling and moving better now.**  


This post originally appeared as a part of Kinesi, LLC's biweekly newsletter, "Movement Matters." If you would like to receive "Movement Matters" via email, please subscribe here. Thanks for reading!

 


 

The 1 Mindset Change That Can Revolutionize Your Rehab

The foundation of good medicine is in determining a correct diagnosis. Without knowing what we are treating, we can’t possibly choose the correct form of treatment. So, when we have musculoskeletal pain, it’s very important to know exactly what is causing it- be it a ligament tear, a tendonitis, a ruptured disk, etc, right?

Wrong. In fact, focusing too hard on understanding exactly what is causing our pain can drive us to seek out excessive medical tests and to spend too much time treating symptoms, rather than solving the underlying issues contributing to our pain. 

If we understand pain correctly, that it is a sign alerting us that there is potential danger (it does not reliably tell us the type or magnitude of the danger), we can understand that pain does not always equate to injury. What is important is that we rule out the potential for serious injury or illness requiring immediate medical intervention, which can often be accomplished by a doctor or physical therapist taking a complete history and conducting a thorough physical exam. With serious injury or illness ruled out, I believe that there is often very little value to determining the exact physical source of pain. What we know is that there is a movement problem and that’s all I think we need to know. 

With a specific musculoskeletal diagnosis, we sometimes become bound to protocols or site-specific treatments that, if ineffective in alleviating pain, leave us stranded or cause us to chase symptoms. If we simply look at painful movement as a movement problem, we are free to engage in problem solving- in finding and building on movements that are not painful in order to more quickly and effectively restore mobility and function.

As patients with movement problems, instead of injuries, we can let go of the fear of damaging our bodies and feel confident getting back to moving again. 

The Question of the Apple vs. the Orchard

 
“Start slow, and when you think you are going slow enough, slow down.” - advice from Dean Karnazes to Kristin Armstrong before her first ultramarathon

My husband, who has his sights set on his first ultramarathon this fall, shared this quote with me this morning. It makes sense. When attempting to run an extremely long distance, you don’t want to run out of gas too soon. It is basic physiology summed up in a very practical manner. 

But even though this advice was specific to running, I couldn’t help thinking about how it applies to injury recovery, as well. It is completely natural to want to get as much out of your body as possible- to push yourself to return to your normal life, exercise, dance, or sports involvement as quickly as you can. It is common to focus on what Stephen Covey calls Production (P), or immediate results, despite feeling pain or having poor quality (limping or other forms of compensation) in your movement. But my question is, how much are we focusing on the now and how much are we focusing on the future? What are we doing to build Production’s wellspring, Production Capacity (PC)? 

Mr. Karnazes’ quote is clearly about PC. PC is ultimately what leads to production not just now, but long into the future. It’s not about how you fast you run at the beginning. It's about whether you are still running 50 miles from now. 

So, where are you in your injury recovery process or workout program? Are you looking to produce results now? Or are you looking to build the capacity to produce results in the future? Are looking to be able to perform today? Or are you looking to be able to perform next month, next year, or 10 years from now? Are you pushing your body to work despite pain? Or are you finding ways to move successfully without pain? 

Which do you want more? To produce results RIGHT NOW, despite any consequences that might follow? Or do you want a build a future that will bring you good results for a long time to come? 

Do you want to eat an apple? Or do you want to grow an orchard?

“To maintain the P/PC Balance, the balance between the golden egg (production) and the health and welfare of the goose (production capability) is often a difficult judgment call. But I suggest it is the very essence of effectiveness.”  -Stephen R. Covey

Cultivating Successful Turnout Part 2/6

The dynamic and adaptable human foot contains 26 bones and 33 joints. Getting them moving well can help your turnout!

The dynamic and adaptable human foot contains 26 bones and 33 joints. Getting them moving well can help your turnout!

During Week 2 of our "Turnout" workshop at Dancenter North, I was so happy to hear that some of the dancers had felt that their turnout was already improving since Week 1. Yes! Great job, ladies! Now, onto the feet:

  1. Foot structure is highly individual. Flat feet? High arches? Whatever! How your foot functions is much more important than what it looks like. Ideally, your foot should function a little bit like a spring, flexing gently downward as you put weight onto it or perform a plié, but also rebounding back up when you take weight off of it or rise onto relevé. 
  2. Your foot contains an astounding 26 bones and 33 joints. These bones and joints move 3-dimensionally to keep you connected to the floor as you move. This incredible function not only allows you to keep your balance, but also feeds movement, like a chain reaction, to the rest of your leg and body. 
  3. Although our ankle joints have lots of motion in the sagittal plane (front to back motion seen when flexing and pointing the foot), they are still 3-dimensional joints. The small amounts of frontal plane (side to side) and transverse plane (rotational) motion at the ankles have a big influence on the ability of the ankle to flex and point fully. In addition, maintaining good rotational ability through the ankle allows your lower leg to contribute to the total turnout of your leg.
 

Foot Note: Forcing your turnout to the point where your arches roll in toward the floor limits the ability of your foot to stay stable on the ground while you are dancing. Try readjusting your turnout to an angle where your foot can be comfortably flat and your arch a little bit springy- this is your successfully turned out position!

 

During the Week 2 class, we worked on a number of exercises to help the foot and ankle move and work well. Check out the stretch below and try it for yourself- remembering to stay pain free and work where you feel comfortable and successful. 

Thanks for joining us- see you next week!

Two approaches to stretching the calf in three dimensions:  Position/Movement: Face the barre or a wall, use hands for support. Place 1 foot on the floor, toes forward, toes in, or toes out (whichever is most comfortable). Move other knee 5-10 times in each direction: straight forward and backward, then straight side to side, then rotationally to the right and left. Allow your body to follow the movement of the knee. If your ankle on the standing leg isn't moving, bring that foot closer to the wall and try again. Please discontinue this exercise and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you feel pain.  Pictured Left: Towel roll under the heel lessens the (dorsi)flexion in the ankle allowing more side to side and rotational movement success.  Pictured Right: Towel roll under the ball of the foot causes more dorsiflexion in the ankle, which challenges the foot and ankle to be more flexible in all 3 directions.

Two approaches to stretching the calf in three dimensions:

Position/Movement: Face the barre or a wall, use hands for support. Place 1 foot on the floor, toes forward, toes in, or toes out (whichever is most comfortable). Move other knee 5-10 times in each direction: straight forward and backward, then straight side to side, then rotationally to the right and left. Allow your body to follow the movement of the knee. If your ankle on the standing leg isn't moving, bring that foot closer to the wall and try again. Please discontinue this exercise and consult your doctor or physical therapist if you feel pain.

Pictured Left: Towel roll under the heel lessens the (dorsi)flexion in the ankle allowing more side to side and rotational movement success.

Pictured Right: Towel roll under the ball of the foot causes more dorsiflexion in the ankle, which challenges the foot and ankle to be more flexible in all 3 directions.