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Dance Injury Guide
Back, Neck and Spine
Baastrup's Disease (touching vertebrae): This is a syndrome from arching the back too hard into hyperextension. If a pain occurs when arching it could be that the vertebrae have hit each other in the flex position. This usually is caused by distress or degenerative change in the ligaments along the tops of the individual vertebrae. A dancer with Baastrup’s Disease will feel tenderness when arching. Anti-inflammatory medicine and ice will help. A dancer should try to arch as little as possible if diagnosed with this condition…
Herniated Lumbar Disk: This is when low back pain extends all the way down the leg. The herniated disk in the back can press against a nerve causing pain. This is from the shielding materials between the vertebrae being worn away from overuse. This can happen from a fall or a severe twisting movement or repetitive strain. Severe cases of a herniated disk will cause bladder and bowel problems and numbness around the genitals. In this case immediate medical attention must be sought. The physician will take an x-ray to diagnose this and prescribe anti-inflammatory medication. Surgical treatment may be required to fix a severe case causing a dancer to be out for 6 to 8 weeks following surgery. This shouldn’t be confused with a pinched sciatica nerve. Seek medical attention to determine!
Low Back Strain/Spasms (over stretched or torn fibers): low back strain and/or spasms are pretty common. This can happen when the fibers are accidentally stretched or torn. A rip or overstretching will later cause spasms. Repetitive improper technique or a fall could cause this. Unrelated to dance, lifting a heavy item could also cause lower back strain. If this happens, ice the area, and take ibuprofen or anti-inflammatory drugs from your physician. A visit to the physical therapist can’t hurt either.
Spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebrae): This is when the vertebrae slip forward. Stress fractures can cause this type of injury if the back is severely arched too often. Dancers with this type of injury usually have tightness in the hamstrings and an exaggerated lower back curve. One with this type of injury will feel pain in the lower back and buttocks as well. If a dancer is diagnosed with Spondylolisthesis, they must try to not hyper-extend the back, and will be required to do special strengthening exercises. If the slippage is great, surgery could be required.
Spondylolysis (stress fracture in the vertebrae): This is a stress fracture in one or more of the vertebrae which can happen with repetitive port de bras or severe strain. The only way this can be diagnosed is with an x-ray, one may be asked to stop dancing temporarily until this heals. This can take 2 to 3 months. Some severe cases require one to wear a brace for several hours a day. A physical therapist will need to be sought out and a great deal of inactivity and rest will be required in order for this type of injury to completely heal.
Shoulder and Arms
Acromioclavicular Joint Sprain: The Acromioclavicular is the ligament where the shoulder blade and the clavicle bone meet. These ligaments can get injured by a direct a fall or hit. If the ligament is torn completely a painful bump will arise on the shoulder. If this happens, ice and inactivity will be prescribed and a brace may be given with directions to stop movement for up to 8 weeks. Physical therapy may be required after ligaments heal. Do not work through the pain! Stop dancing and let it heal.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Carpel Tunnel is an overuse injury in the wrist area which could happen with activities such as repetitive partnering. If this happens be sure to take special notice of every-day activities inside the classroom and out. Mobile phones, texting and typing could all be culprits. Ibuprofen will help as well as a decrease of such activities.
Lateral or Medial Epicondylitis: Lateral Epicondylitis is another name for “tennis elbow” which means the inside elbow joint is inflamed. Medial Epicondylitis means both the outside and inside of the elbow is inflamed. Dancers who have elbow pains while partnering may have one of these two injuries. Any dancer who has this type of injury needs to check their technique while partnering to determine if too much force or twisting is occurring. Let the area heal and update the technique!
Rotator-Cuff Tear: When the muscles or tendons that attach to the upper arm bone are torn away from it, the dancer will have a hard time raising the arm if they’re able to at all! A bad fall could cause this type of injury. As with all soft-tissue wounds, ice and rest will be required along with a possible x-ray or MRI. If the tear is significant, surgery may be required, if not then inactivity and physical therapy will be diagnosed. If surgery is required it will take a dancer two to three months for total recovery. If you notice pain in this area, try to pamper it and get it diagnosed early so a total tear doesn’t occur!
Shoulder or Wrist Dislocation: The shoulder or wrist could become dislocated on dancer’s who have very loose joints. This joint can become partially or entirely located which means the top of the arm bone or lower arm bone could pop out of the joint. Do not force your arms into strange positions forcefully! Once a joint is dislocated it may become weak and prone to future dislocations and muscle spasms that are quite painful. A dislocated shoulder or wrist can be popped back into place by the dancer or a physician. If this happens ice the area and take ibuprofen. Try not to move this area for a few days so it can heal and do not repeat the action that caused it! This can happen to male dancers who do a lot of lifting. The muscles must be strengthened with therapy if this happens.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome: If the arm and/or hand begins to feel weak or the blood supply seems to lessen causing a coldness or numbness then this may be what the dancer is experiencing. This area where the veins and arteries run from the head through the arm can become compressed causing major issues. Poor posture and form could cause this and repetitive incorrect placement while partnering as well as a heavy dance bag. A dancer who has this type of injury may notice the pain progresses and will have to take measures to correct it such as posture improvement, lightening the dance bag and correcting poor partnering technique. Make sure the upper body is always properly stretched and awkward postures are corrected. In the meantime ibuprofen will help!
Hip and Upper Leg
Femoral Stress Fracture: If a deep pain is noticed in the groin, hip or thigh then the dancer may have this type of injury that is caused from improper technique or muscle imbalances. The pain from this type of injury may be present during or after class, or during stretches. Medical attention should be sought for this type of pain and the physician will most likely x-ray the area and prescribe rest, possible crutches for a short amount of time and physical therapy.
Hamstring Pull: If a dancer pulls the muscle in the back of their upper leg then a hamstring pull is what they have. This type of injury requires inactivity for a few weeks, icing, rest and anti-inflammatory medicine. Do not try to dance if the muscle is torn! If too much scar tissue develops then the area will be less flexible and will cause future problems. Take good care of a muscle pull like this.
Iliacus Tendinitis: If a dancer experiences pain near the front of the hip near the groin while doing hip rotation or flexion movements then the dancer may have this syndrome. Most common in modern dancers, Ili