At Girl Fit Physical Therapy we specialize in treating the specific needs of female athletes and have a strong focus on dance medicine specifically. Our therapists have extensive experience working with all types of dancers, including personal experience in professional dance. Our therapists have worked backstage with Broadway dancers, provided workshops on preventing dance injuries to many local dance companies, and spoken at the Boston Children’s Hospital Dance Symposium. We also reach out to the larger dance community to further educate on dance injuries and how to prevent them. The most common sites of dance injuries include the foot, ankle, knee, back and hip; the specific joint varies across ages and styles studied. For example the most common injury in ballet dancers are typically the foot and ankle, for example FHL tendonitis or “Dancer’s Tendonitis”. While contemporary dancers typically experience injuries more in the low back and knee, for example patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Dance injuries typically result from overuse instead of an acute trauma. Overuse injuries are typically due to “repetitive trauma” or doing a specific action over a long period of time. These injuries can originate from hypermobility, decreased strength, muscle imbalance, poor from and/ or growth spurts.
In order to excel in your sport or art it is always important to cross train, the same goes for dancers. The hypermobility that benefits many dance styles also means that dancers need to be able to control the extra motion their joints have. Dancers should strength train outside of their dance training with a focus on the muscles that have been found to be under utilized by this population. Overuse of the quadricep muscle can cause knee pain (or patellofemoral pain) in dancers. So, training the side of the hips (hip abductors) and back of the hip and legs (hip extensors) can offset this common muscle imbalance and help prevent or treat dance injuries. Decreased strength in the core specifically the lateral or side of the core muscles is also an area that should be focused on during dancer’s cross training routine. Below are a few of many great exercises to do to strengthen these areas for dancers!
Starting with your upper back on a bench, couch or chair and feet flat on the ground lower your bottom ( with or without a weight on your hips) . Then raise your bottom so your back and bottom make a straight line, your should feel this in your glute muscles. Repeat 10-12 repetitions 3-4 times.
Starting on all fours with a band above your knees, raise one leg to a 45 degree angle by using your glute med ( or the side of your hip). Hold for 30 seconds, repeat 3 times on each side.
Start on your elbow, hip and side of your feet. Raise your hips up while evenly distributing your weight on your elbow and feet then lower your hip back to the ground. Repeat 8-10 repetitions for 3-4 sets on each side.You should feel this in your side hips ( glute med!) and your core.
It is important for a dancer to continue to have a good awareness of their form while in their dance training. Compensations during dance can lead to overuse injuries as well, for example compensating in a turned out first position can lead to the pelvis tilting forward ( or anterior tilt) and lead to low back pain. These compensations may also be indicative of a poor length tension relationship of certain muscle groups, as in one muscle group may need to be lengthened or stretched while other may need to be strengthened.
If you are experiencing pain or decreased function, schedule a physical therapy evaluation with one of our specialized physical therapists for further examination. If you or your dancer is not currently injured but would like to further improve her strength, optimize dance performance, and prevent dance injuries, you can set up a Wellness Visit with one of our physical therapists. We can help her stay strong and healthy as she trains. We can be reached at 617-618-9290 to set up either type of appointment, or you can email us at office@girlfitPT.com.
Michaela Main, PT, DPT