My name is Judith, and I am a dance-a-holic. There. It’s out. Hardly a weekend goes by that I’m not travelling to some seemingly random point in the UK to dance until the early hours of the morning. There is nothing, nothing, quite like dancing. Suede-soled shoes gliding effortlessly over the smooth wooden floors, heart soaring, on another plane of being altogether. . .and then BANG! You injure yourself. It’s happened to most of us at some point. The shoulder niggle that never seemed serious so you never had it checked out. The insidious knee or hip pain. The back pain following an ill-advised aerial move. Or the ever-popular sprained ankle.
Here are a few tips that could help you to prevent the injury from the outset.
1. Warm up before you start dancing.
You’d warm up before training for a football match, or running a marathon, right? So why don’t you warm up before dancing intensively for 4-8 hours? I’m not talking about doing a load of passive or static stretching in your pretty dance frock, but how about easing yourself in with a couple of gentle dances instead of leaping onto that dance floor subjecting your body to an intense workout whilst still cold? It’s worth considering. . .
2. Wear comfortable footwear to and from the venue.
Ladies (and some gents!) I know how we can be about shoes. I get it. You want to look good at all times, but at what cost? Do you have any idea what those heels are doing to your entire body, not just to your feet but to your knees, hips, lower back and neck? If you alter the height of your heels, there’s an immediate knock-on effect throughout the entire body. For more information, take a look at this page: http://erikdalton.com/media/newsletters-online/high-heels-and-back-pain/. Now I’m not suggesting that we all start dancing in flats – I for one can ONLY dance in heels, so to change my dance shoes to flat shoes would be counter-productive. What I’m suggesting is that maybe you could consider wearing comfortable, well-cushioned flat shoes to travel to and from the venue, giving your body some rest and relief after a heavy night of dancing!
3. Eat well and take supplements to support your joints.
Most of the dancers I know are out there strutting their stuff on the dance floor 2-3 times a week, usually for 2-4 hours or more. If that’s not intense training I’m not sure what is. You’ve got to look after the health of your joints from the inside if you want to keep up that sort of activity! My top tips would be to eat an anti-inflammatory diet (check out my blog on arthritis for more information on this), take vitamin D, fish oils and some form of glucosamine and chondroitin. It’s all on the arthritis blog, and doesn’t only apply to those with arthritis.
4. Listen to your body!
When you start to feel like your back is about to “go”, get it seen to before you injure yourself. Your body is the most amazing, intelligent, intuitive piece of kit you’ll ever have; learn to listen to it and trust it when it’s telling you there’s a problem. Pain is there for a reason, so don’t just keep popping the ibuprofen without looking into the cause of the pain. I’d recommend seeing a qualified professional such as a sports massage therapist, a chiropractor or an osteopath. I don’t recommend taking all your health advice from the bloke down the pub, or the guy you know on facebook that “had a problem just like this, here try some of my prescription medication. . .” I wish I was joking when I typed that, but it happens more often than I care to mention!
5. Invest in regular massage treatments.
People usually turn up in my clinic with acute or chronic injuries. We work intensively together for a few weeks (time scales vary depending on the extent of the injury) and then the client either says “So long, thanks for fixing me, see you next time I’m broken,” or they say “Can I book in for a maintenance treatment next month?” Which do you think has a higher risk of repeat injury? I can tell you, it’s the former. So after three months of having no massage treatment, they turn up again with the same injury, and spend twice as much on having it sorted out again from scratch as they would have spent on three maintenance treatments. It’s a sad story, but a common one. Sad face :-(. My advice when looking for a massage therapist is a) come to me (of course!), b) if you can’t because you live too far away then look for someone with a few year’s experience in sports massage, preferably with some knowledge of the myofascial system. Or go and see a good Chiropractor or Osteopath. If you need me to recommend someone in your area let me know and I’ll put my network of spies to work.
There is much, much more that I could say but I have to go and get some rest for a long night of dancing ahead. . . In my next blog I’ll be focussing on some specific areas of pain and injury in dancers, if you’ve got a particular problem let me know and I’ll try to include it.
Thanks for reading 🙂