Common Dance Injuries and Treatments

//Common Dance Injuries and Treatments

With the long list of injuries that can occur while exercising or playing sports, there are a few that are especially prevalent in the dance world. In ballroom dance, the most common injuries tend to be chronic or repetitive injuries that occur from overuse such as :

1. Muscle spasm – Appearing as a decrease in the width of the mobility of surrounding joints, painful muscle cramps or contractions typically caused by muscle tightness, fatigue or a fluid imbalance in the muscle. Cramps can happen in any muscle but for ballroom dancers are most common in the legs and back. These injuries are most commonly caused by overuse of a joint or muscle. The repetitive motions of ballroom dancing cause stress on hips, legs, feet, backs and shoulders. These strains are most likely to happen where muscles connect to bone by tendons in the form of tears in the tendon.
Treatment: Allowing the muscle to rest is the first order of business. Followed by the application of wet heat, professional massage, soft stretching and deep heat produced by short waves or ultrasound.  -Use of anti-inflammatory and analgesic (painkiller) medication, which can release the muscle fibers by breaking the pain cycle of the spasms.  -Physical activity should be restarted gradually and carefully to avoid a relapse.

2. Tendonitis – Inflammation of the tissue connecting bone to muscle; Usually of the elbow, wrist, knee cap, shoulder or hip, causing immense pain and swelling.
Treatment: You should see your doctor as treatments can vary depending on the severity and frequency of each case. Your doctor will likely recommend the RICE treatment for pain relief: Rest the joint; apply ice packs; compress the area with an elastic bandage; and keep the joint elevated.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen may be prescribed to help inflamed tissue.  -Once your health care provider has given clearance, it is good to start exercising to strengthen the muscles around the sore joint within a day or two. Beginning with a long warm-up to minimize shock to the tissues, then slowly moving on to light weights or an elastic exercise band. It is also important to stretch carefully, repeating each stretch a few times.

3. Muscle or ligament tear (strain) – When a trauma or overload causes a loss of continuity between muscle fibers. One type, a longitudinal tear, happens when muscular fibers split apart and leave a gap that can produce scar tissue. The transversal or (degenerative) tear, happens when muscular fibers lose contact with each other. This happens more frequently in the attachment between the muscle and the tendon in which it ends. Neck strains can be a common occurrence in ballroom dancing since it is not easy to maintain the proper posture and head tilt required for each dance.
Treatment: It is wise to start with an ultrasound scan or magnetic resonance to determine whether or not the damage requires surgery.
-Minimizing repetition of the exercises that caused the damage is key.
-Applying ice and careful compressive dressings to diminish inflammation.
-Taking analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication may also be helpful.
-Allowing a healing period of up to five weeks before restarting the physical activity.
-During a later phase, it is crucial to reestablish the elasticity of the muscular group or ligament and strengthen the area to try to recover efficiency and security. If treated improperly, the new tissue causes a decrease in the efficiency of the muscle and possible repetitions or worsening of the injury.

4. Sprain – The partial rift of ligaments that give support and stability to the joints. A consequence of traumas generated by forces that produce displacements beyond the physiological limits and that affect the stability of the joint. The 3 degress of sprains are determined by their level of swelling and the limited mobility imposed on the joint. Areas most affected are the knees and ankles, which can lead to an increased risk of ankle arthritis, further sprains and decreased balance later in life.
Treatment : R.I.C.E. principles.
-Analgesic and anti-inflammatory medication.
For minor sprains use soft compressive dressings (without elastic).
Severe sprains typically require immobilization of the joint for a period of time, with Chirurgical repair eventually needed. A rehabilitation program is needed in all cases, in order to to regain full functionality.

5. Fracture – The partial or total loss of continuity of a bone that is typically the result of a major trauma or practices that weaken bone structure. When caused by repetitive minor traumas, (as in the case of athletic individuals), it is a stress fracture, which is very common in the foot.
Treatment: The area must be completely immobilized in case of a fracture and the person should be taken immediately to a hospital for x-rays.
-The fracture might need surgery to internally immobilization the area or need plasters or splints to immobilize it externally. The period of immobility lasts until the fracture is healed, which varies for each bone.
-Rest and anti-inflammatory medication are still helpful.
-Down the road during the rehabilitation phase, physiotherapy, stretching and strengthening are necessary for functional recovery of the affected area.

In addition to these common injuries, there are areas like the ankles and neck (as previously mentioned), that are more susceptible to wear and tear from dance and other activities. Other sensitive areas with frequent issues are :

– The knees: Pain in this overworked joint can result in knee arthritis and swelling, This is the most commonly strained area for ballroom dancers due to the incredible amount of bending, dipping and squatting necessary for most dances.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome: A result of tight hamstrings and calf muscles, weak quadriceps and repetitive force from normal movement putting pressure on the patella (kneecap), causing the knee-protecting cartilage to lose its shock-absorbing ability. Dancers with high-arched or flat fleet, wide hips and knees that turn in or out are more likely to experience this pain. 

 -Meniscus Knee Tear: Twisting knees during movement, forcing feet in turnout or losing control when landing a jump can tear the cushioning knee cartilage.

– The feet: Foot pain is something that we all experience from time to time, but for some can cause bunions, stress fractures and meta-tarsalgia, which can lead to arthritis. Simple adjustments of posture, technique, core strength and even proper footwear (particularly if one has flat feet, high arches, or other foot differences) can easily resolve this issue.

– Lower back: A problem that most people (regardless of lifestyle) have dealt with at some point or another is lower back pain. However the incredible physical demands of some types of dance can incite a wide range of issues from minor aches to chronic back pain or even disc problems and arthritis.

Although RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is the first aid solution typically best suited for most dance injuries (with inflammation) immediately following an incident, the proper treatment for an injury depends on the severity and type of injury sustained. Additional aids such as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) in a gel can be applied to the affected site to reduce pain and inflammation, but with caution that masking pain this way to resume activity could simply make an injury worse. After the first 24-48 hours when applying ice is typically no longer beneficial, using a heating pad can be helpful for more chronic conditions. It is important to note that both therapies can also delay healing if not used properly.

Supporting the joints by wrapping gauze around a swollen ankle or wearing a knee brace adds stability to weak areas. A post injury rehabilitation program can also keep you fit while you recover. Rehabilitation as part of a treatment program might include exercise,  physical therapy, ultrasound to help relieve pain and promote healing, as well as massage and use of a Thera-band or other exercises to strengthen the body. As beneficial as these treatments are, you should always consult with your physician before beginning any new treatments.

By |2014-05-07T06:32:21+00:00May 6th, 2014|Dance Guide|0 Comments

About the Author:

Having fearlessly explored every continent, Nneka is multi-lingual and passionate about travel, culture and life. A SDSU alumni, she has worked in KTVU Fox's newsroom, interviewed notable figures and hosted programs for various media outlets. She has also written features for The San Leandro Times and Also a seasoned performer and fitness professional, Nneka holds several fitness certifications, has shared the stage with entertainment icons, and has appeared on various TV Shows. Follow her global adventures in the arts and beyond on IG @nnekaworldtrekker.