As dancers our bodies are the paintbrush, and the floor is our canvas. We dedicate ourselves to this artform with a fiery passion. This drive to be our best has us getting up early to workout, meeting at the studio for late night rehearsals, spending our weekend at competitions and performances… and we absolutely love it. We will often go weeks or sometimes even months with barely more than a couple days of rest. It does not come as a surprise our bodies occasionally fail us; our muscles fatigue, our reaction time slows, and our bodies break down resulting in an injury.
An article published by Johns Hopkins stated the most common injuries in dancers are overuse injuries in our muscles and joints. This same article reported these injuries include the hips, knees, foot & ankle, stress fractures, and a likelihood to develop arthritis in these joints.
This guide is written to help all our dance buddies stay happy and healthy out on the dance floor performing and feeling their best.
Reducing the risk of dance injuries
While it is impossible to take all the risk of injury from dancing, these are 5 steps we can take to reduce the risk of injuring ourselves while dancing.
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Proper nutrition doesn’t come from snacking on chips while driving between studios. Take time to eat well balanced meals, even if it means meal prepping and taking a Tupperware container with you. Proper nutrition also includes staying hydrated (and before you ask, no, a large coffee from Dunkin’ doesn’t count). Your body needs plenty of water for your muscles and joints to stay loose and limber.
2. Warm Up and Cool Down
Frequently we are rushing into class at the last minute and scrambling to leave so we are not late for our next gig. Taking time to warm up our muscles and prepare them for strenuous activity is one of the most important factors to reducing our chance of injury. Even though we might be in a hurry, taking time for warm up and cool down is well worth it to reduce our chances of injury and missing a performance.
Dance Buddy's portable massager is great for massaging your muscles, joints, and ligaments during warm up and cool downs. It also reduces recovery time. Tools like this one are becoming increasingly popular in the fitness community for their ability reduce injuries.
3. Take Time to Rest and Recover
I know it is almost pointless to tell a dancer to take time to rest, but it is crucial to your health. You must give your body time to rest and recover from the impact and physical demands required by dancing. To put on your best performance and allow your mind the freedom to explore creative choreography, you must rest. Training is important to learn technique and remember dance steps, but without recovery time your body is unable to properly perform the technique. Without rest and recovery, you risk injuring yourself or your dance partners.
4. Use Proper Equipment, Especially Shoes
Every dancer has worn a pair of shoes that didn’t fit quite right. Dance shoes should be fitted to your foot structure, dance technique, skill level, and even the flooring you will be dancing on. A proper fitting shoe will not only reduce injuries, but it will also further your enjoyment of the art by providing comfort, support, and the ability to perform at your highest achieved levels with perfection.
5. Strength Training for Dance
It is well known dance requires a great deal of strength and flexibility. What is not as well known, are the best workout routines to strengthen specific muscle groups for dancing, such as our calves and feet. Improving the strength in our feet not only allows us to jump higher, but it also allows our feet to absorb the impact when landing on the balls of the feet to reduce the chances of ankle sprains, heel bruising, and the impact on our joints.
Pointe Magazine published an article with some strength training tips you can read here.
References and Additional Information
Johns Hopkins: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/sports-injuries/common-dance-injuries-and-prevention-tips
Dance Magazine: https://www.dancemagazine.com/injury-prevention-for-dance-2639821288.html
Better Health Channel: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dancing-preventing-injury
STOP Sports Injuries: https://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/Dance_Injury_Prevention.aspx
N’Styl Dancewear: https://nstyldancewear.com/pages/master-pointe-shoe-fitting-in-orlando-fl
Pointe Magazine: https://pointemagazine.com/conditioning-exercises-for-ballet-dancers/