OUCH!! That’s gotta hurt – How to treat common dance injuries

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Dancers injuriesAlbert Einstein said “Dancers are athletes of God.” (Who knows if he really said that, but it sure sounds cool.) Still, athletes get hurt doing what they love and so do dancers. They can be practicing, training really hard for an upcoming performance or even social dancing when all of a sudden… PAIN!

As dancers we are likely to get injured, so we need to know what we can do to recover quickly and get back on the dance floor. The worst thing we can do is to ignore an injury and leave it untreated.

According to the NYU School of Medicine, feet, ankles, legs, knees, hip and lower back are where most dancers get hurt. Here’s a list of the 5 most common injuries and how to treat them.

1) Sprains and strains:

They sound similar but they are not the same. A sprain is a stretching or tearing of the ligaments, (the bands of fibrous tissue that act like ropes and connect two bones together.) A strain is a stretching or tearing of the muscle or tendons, (the fibrous cords that connect muscles to the bones.)

The proper way to treat both sprains and strains is to stop dancing, ice the affected area as quickly as possible to minimize swelling, and wrap it up with compression bandage. Mild and moderate sprains can heal in a few days. However, anyone experiencing pain beyond that should see a doctor immediately.

2) Fractures:

Plain and simple, a fracture is a broken bone. Dancers with a fracture can experience swelling around the injury and very sharp pain  that prevents them from moving. They must be taken to the nearest hospital for treatment. However,  if there’s heavy bleeding or the limb or joint appears deformed, call an ambulance right away and don’t move the dancer at all!

Also common among dancers are stress fractures. These are smaller cracks in a bone caused by the repetitive application of force. Stress fractures cause pain and swelling that get better during rest. Also, the affected area becomes tender to the touch. At first, the pain may be small, but it gets worse over time. Dancers with severe pain and swelling should stop dancing and seek medical advice immediately. The doctor will be able to tell the severity of the fracture with the help of an X-ray.

3) Tendinitis (or tendonitis)

Tendinitis is inflammation of a tendon (the fibrous cords that attaches muscles to bones) caused by overuse. Dancers who suffer from tendinitis experience dull pain in the affected area.

The good news is that most cases can be treated at home by resting, applying heat and cold and taking any analgesic for the pain. However, without proper treatment, dancers can rupture their tendons, which require surgery, so it is important to take a break from dancing and let the injury heal.

4) Bursitis

Bursitis (pronounced bur-SY-tis) is an inflammation of the bursae (bur-see), the small, fluid-filled sacs that cushion the bones, tendons and muscles near the joints. Most of the time, dancers experience bursitis in their hips, elbows, shoulders and knees, often caused by frequent repetitive motion. They feel pain and stiffness in the affected area, which may also look red and swollen.

As with tendinitis, dancers can treat their bursitis at home by resting, avoiding any pressure and icing the affected area. Anyone experiencing pain for more than a week should see a doctor immediately.

5) Knee injuries

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, knee injuries are amongst the most common reasons why people see their doctors. It makes sense, considering that the knee is the largest joint in the body with many components that can get damaged. Knee injuries can include fractures, dislocations (when the bones get out of place), damage to the ligaments, and meniscal and tendon tears.

For any knee injury, the AAOS recommends following the RICE method, which is good for any of the above mentioned injuries. RICE stands for REST, ICE, COMPRESS (with bandage) and ELEVATE. They also recommend seeking medical treatment for anyone who’s experiencing severe pain or cannot move the knee

Personally, the most common injuries that I have seen when social dancing are broken toes from people stepping on each other’s feet, and skin cuts on the legs caused by ladies’ hight heels (those things are weapons). To treat any skin cut, The MAYO clinic’s website recommends washing hands first, stopping the bleeding with a clean cloth and then rinsing the wound with water. After that the only thing left is to keep the wound clean and disinfected until it heals.

In conclusion, if dancers are indeed athletes then we have to think like athletes and see dancing as our sport. Consider warming up and cooling off after a lesson or practice. Also, wear light and comfortable clothing and drink plenty of water before and after dancing. This can reduce the risk of getting hurt.

What other common injuries have you seen or experienced? What else do you think we can do to treat injuries, and how else can we prevent them? Make sure you leave your comments on the section below, and as always, be safe on the dance floor!

Dancing injuries

NOTICE:  The information above is intended as a resource. I strongly recommend to seek professional medical advice for the best treatment of any dance related injury and diagnose.

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