Most dancers experience a few injuries during the course of their careers. Because an injury, especially a chronic one, can sideline the career of a professional dancer, taking potential injuries seriously is important, as is allowing sustained injuries appropriate time and space to heal.
Common Dance Injuries
Injuries of the foot and leg are most commonly due to the constant pounding they take from the cycle of rehearsing and performing. For instance, dancers have the potential to fracture a bone in their foot simply from landing incorrectly during a jump. Tendonitis, shin splints, and knee hyperextension are other conditions dancers face.
In some cases, the movements of dance can exacerbate preexisting conditions. This can be especially true of back injuries, since few dance movements are particularly dangerous to the back. However, if your back was injured in an accident, then arching your back while dancing can be a constant source of irritation.
Preventing Chronic Injuries
Accidents will happen and sometimes joints give out from sheer overuse, but there are some steps dancers can take to help lessen the number of dance injuries they sustain over the course of their dancing years.
There is no single preventative measure as effective as warming up properly each time you dance. You'll enjoy a greater range of motion because of increased flexibility, and be less likely to strain a muscle or joint. In addition to performing stretches and other warm-up activities, it's advisable to build up to your most strenuous dancing. Do some barre work or spend a few minutes practicing single step combinations before going all out.
Practice Proper Technique
Maintaining correct body alignment can also aid in preventing problems. You should use the correct shoes for the dance and only dance on appropriate surfaces. Some dancers injure themselves while playing around outside of class in improper shoes and on surfaces that do not "give" or that have too little or too much friction. Trying to perform a turn in tennis shoes on a carpeted surface can quickly strain your knee.
Mix It Up
Repetitive movements are more likely to result in strain. Even if the movement itself doesn't cause a problem, the fatigue of performing the same step or extension again and again can make you more likely to stumble or make a mistake and cause pain. Make sure you're maintaining variety in your practice schedule. Even if you're having trouble with a difficult step, take a break and come back to it later. Your body will thank you for it.
Pay Attention to Pain
There can be an attitude among dancers that you should just dance through the pain. It's a badge of honor to have bloody toes from pointe shoes, and those in competitive groups and dance companies may feel pressure to make it through practice no matter what. However, pain is there for a reason: it's a signal to your body that something is wrong. If you take care of a sore ankle when you feel the first twinge of pain, you may only need a wrap and a few days off your feet to fix the problem. If you ignore it until you can't stand on your foot anymore, you may require surgery and weeks of rehabilitation and time away from the dance studio in order for it to heal.
Listen to Your Doctor
If you do experience a dance injury, follow your doctor's instructions carefully to avoid re-injuring the muscle or joint. If you're told to wear a knee brace for a month, don't wear it for one day less or only wear it for class, but not rehearsal. It can be difficult to follow such instructions when they impede your dancing lifestyle; however, keep in mind that missing a few performances is a small price to pay in order to enjoy your body's functionality for the rest of your life. Always follow your doctor's advice.
Prevention and Adequate Healing
Dance injuries are a painful reality of the physical nature of dance. While following the above tips for avoiding injury will help you reduce the number of injuries you sustain, those who dance on a regular basis are likely to injure themselves a few times during the span of their careers.
Because an improperly-healed injury can become a chronic injury, leading to chronic pain, and maybe even the inability to dance. For this reason, it's important to not only reduce the number of injuries you sustain, but to ensure that any injury that does occur has the opportunity to fully heal before you start dancing again.