Dancers are prone to many different types of injuries, most of them involving muscles, bones, or connective tissues. Injuries can be caused by accidents, but they are most commonly caused by continuing repetition of improper movements (Loren, 106). Working improperly one time will probably not lead to injury. However, the body cannot take continual abuse, and it will eventually break down if not used in the correct manner.
If a major injury does occur, the "RICE" procedure is a good one to begin immediately. "RICE" stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. When an injury occurs, stop the activity which caused the pain, apply ice for 15 to 30 minutes, apply compression in the form of a bandage, and elevate the injury above the heart. This will help to keep swelling down to a minimum. To prevent the problem from becoming worse, continue to rest as long as the pain remains, even if this means staying off the injury for multiple days of weeks.
It is very important to remember that the old phrase " No pain, no gain" is not a good one to go by; we feel pain when our bodies are trying to alert us of a potential problem (Loren, 127). Do not ignore pain, especially if it occurs in the ankles, knees, and lower back! Immediately stop anything which causes pain. A doctor (preferably an orthopedic physician) should be consulted as soon as possible in the event of any serious injury, including fractures, dislocations, strains, and sprains. In addition, if any pain persists for longer than a week, it is a very good idea to see a doctor. The following is a partial listing of common dance injuries along with a description and recommended treatment:
Though the cause of muscle soreness is unknown, soreness is generally attributed to an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscles or to tiny tears in the muscles (Loren, 126). This seldom causes long-lasting or debilitating pain, but there are ways to prevent and treat the pain. Warm up and cool down completely when exercising. In the event that you experience sore muscles, gentle stretching and use of the muscle, hot baths, and massage often help.
Often the result of not warming up or cooling down correctly. Gently stretch and massage the muscle before continuing working (Hammond, 132). If the cramp is not entirely worked out, no serious damage will be done, though some soreness may occur. Treat this soreness as you would any other muscle soreness.
A strain (sometimes referred to a pulled muscle) is a tearing of muscles and tendons, often from the hips down, resulting from weakness of the body, previous injury, overfatigue, or incorrect execution of a step (133). The injury can cause stiffness in the muscle and swelling in the area. Swelling can be minimized by the "RICE" procedure. Heat may be applied after swelling has stopped, at least 24 hours after the injury took place. Rest until the pain from the injury goes away- this is not an injury which can be ignored.
Dislocation and Fracture
A dislocation is a bone thrown out of joint; a fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone (134). If you feel you are experiencing either of these, apply "RICE" techniques and see a doctor as soon as possible.
Painless "clicks" or "snaps" in the hips, knees, and ankles are most often the harmless result of bones rubbing against unyielding ligaments or tendons (136). Clicks of the hips often occur in late teenagers, but this usually disappears later. Other clicks may not go away. A painful click is not a good thing, however; a painful click in the knee can be an indication of a cartilage tear.
Connective Tissue (Ligaments and Tendons)
A sprain is defined as damage to the ligaments of a joint, often in the ankles and sometimes in the knees or hips (133). Ligaments are the connective tissue which attach bones to each other at joints (Campbell, 785). This injury can be due to incorrect knee-to-foot alignment, an incorrect movement, or a fall (Hammond, 133). Avoid swelling with "RICE" and see a doctor.
Inflammation of a tendon, which attach muscles to bones, or its sheath is defined as tendonitis (135). The cause of this painful condition may be overwork of the connective muscle or a severe blow to the tendon. The best treatment of tendonitis is rest, though application of ice and/or heat may help.
Most commonly defined as a minor tearing of the muscle attachments from the tibia, sometimes referred to as the shinbone (134). Often, it is the result of dancing on a hard floor (like cement) or landing incorrectly from jumps (with heels off the floor). Prevention: warm up carefully and thoroughly, emphasizing stretching of the calf muscles and foot flexors.
Specific Areas of the Body
Feet and Ankles
Two of the most common ankle injuries are sprains and tendonitis (. Sprains are often the result of rolling over the arch of the foot, which is usually caused by over-turnout. Care should be taken keep turnout at reasonable position, with the knees always pointing over the toes.
Dancers often suffer from bunions, which are painful swelling in the joint of the big to to the foot (136). In the long run, care should be taken that both ballet and street shoes fit correctly; on the short term, moist heat applied before a workout and ice afterwards may help.
The knees are quite easy to damage if one is working incorrectly. Any pain felt in the knees, especially if accompanied by redness, swelling, or stiffness, indicates a problem which one should address by "RICE" initially and by a careful survey of which movements are caused or are causing the pain. Pain can be caused by any number of problems, including sprained ligaments around the knees or tendonitis. If the joint locks or slips unexpectedly or will not straighten, the problem may lie in the realm of cartilage tears of slipped patellas.
Dancers should watch for several trouble spots in their dancing. Dancers should never force their turnout beyond its natural position, for this causes twisting within the knee. Make sure that the knees always point over the toes, especially when one is doing circular movements (ronds de jambes) and knee bends (demi- and grands plies). The knee should remain straight, for a relaxed knee is not as strong as a straight one and can lead to injury.
Dancers are most often plagued by back injuries of strains and cramps. These injuries can be indications of a more serious problems. Female dancers can feel pain after doing an incorrect arabesque, which is an extension to the back which causes the torso to move forward, especially if she hollows out the lower back instead of extending through it. Male dancers can experience back pain after lifting their partners while off balance or when overfatigued. The rest, ice, and gentle stretching are the best remedies, though a doctor (who should be contacted in the event of a back injury) may have some other suggestions.