With many dance performances and NZSOD auditions looming I feel now is a good time to discuss managing dance injuries. Picture this… you are in class and take off for a grand jete, you are sailing through the air and in almost slow motion you come down on your foot wrong. You immediately know this isn’t good. What should you do next?
1. Stop and breathe
You may feel like there is nothing you can do to stop that immediate reaction of getting upset but there is! Take a breath and try to take control. Close your eyes and remove all of the reactions around you as this often makes you more upset. Focus on your breathing and see if you can slow this down.
2. You’re not a superhero
You’re first reaction will be to get back up and keep dancing. Don’t! You will have higher levels of adrenaline in your system from the shock of falling. Adrenaline is a chemical that we use in stressful situations to keep us going. Continuing to dance on an injured ankle or knee with lots of adrenaline in your system may mask how bad it is, you’re more likely to re-injure that area or you may make it worse.
3. What is the damage?
Now you want to see what is actually going on. If it’s an ankle you could try pointing and flexing the foot and sickling in and out to see how much movement you have and where and how much it hurts. You’re trying to find out what structures are damaged and how bad they are.
If there is a fracture or a bony injury it may feel like a deep sharp pain. If it is a ligament you may be sore in a certain direction when you move it and if someone else moves it in the same direction. However if it is a muscle you may be sore when you do the movement but it won’t be as sore if someone else moves it for you.
Regardless of what the structure is you want to work out how much pain there is. If there is a lot of pain you should immobilise it, if there is only slight pain with these movements you may try placing some weight through your foot to see how it feels.
This is important for the initial stages of an injury to help to reduce pain and swelling. It is important to know that swelling is your bodies natural way of protecting the injured area and helping to immobilise it, the swelling brings the cells that help to heal the injury.
- Rest-take time out, don’t go straight back to dance class
- Ice-not just once straight after the injury, try using a bag of ice cubes or something that will mould around the joint. Apply for 10-20min and then remove for 20-30min before reapplying. You want to ice on and off for the first 24-48hrs depending on severity.
- Compression-apply a gentle bandage but make sure you don’t turn your toes blue!
- Elevation-rest your foot on a bag or stool, keep it above your knee which is above your hip to help your drainage system reduce the swelling.
5. Seek professional advice
Even if you think it’s just a normal ankle sprain, it’s very important to make sure that you have a treatment plan to get you on track. There are plenty of things that can complicate a seemingly simple injury that can slow down healing. It’s much better to find these out early rather than weeks down the track. Contact your local Motus physiotherapist now.
Too many times dancers go to see a physiotherapist and go against the advice they are given only to end up re-injuring themselves. If the physiotherapist asks you to do something that you don’t want to do or you don’t think is right, ask them more questions. Get them to clarify why it is that you shouldn’t be doing that. Injuries never occur at a good time but if you intend on pushing through for a major performance or audition then please tell your physiotherapist so they can help prevent further damage and get you back on track with management after the event is finished!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashlee Lusty is a physiotherapist at Sportsmed Bealey. Ashlee has been a keen ballet and jazz dancer for 15 years, completing her NZAMD Advanced Jazz exam in 2007. Ashlee currently works with NZ Ballet and the Canterbury Women’s hockey team.