Massage Therapy Helps Keep Dancers on Their Toes

They can glide with ease across a dance floor or perform amazing acrobatics. With years of practice behind them, endless hours of exercise and rehearsals, dancers make the difficult seem easy. Just like professional athletes, all that hard work also means having to keep in tiptop shape. Additionally, it means injuries are part of the job.

Dance injuries are similar to what would be considered sport injuries. Just as athletes, they run, jump and endure long periods of high energy activity. For those few minutes of actually performing on stage, they may have rehearsed or exercised for six to eight hours a day, or even more, several days a week. In addition to the physical movement part of the profession, in some cases, like Broadway shows, the dancers may have to wear heavy costumes or other gear both in dress rehearsals and actual performances. This means extra stress on joints, ligaments and muscles not only in the arms and legs – yet also in the neck and back muscles, too.

The most common injuries are to the legs and back. To help in the prevention of injury, dancers may do specific exercises and stretches, such as those offered in Pilates, a regimen designed to strengthen the body’s core muscles as well as maintain flexibility and develop good coordination. Yoga is also a good choice for being able to keep focused and limber. A good overall massage, used for relaxation and keeping the body in good health, would be Swedish massage. Dancing, as lovely as it looks, can be very stressful for professionals and amateur competitors. It must be cautioned, though, a relaxing massage should never be received the day of a performance as it can affect the dancer’s balance and coordination adversely. The very nature of a relaxing massage and its engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system is paradoxical to the needs of a dancer who has to be ready to move quickly and with precision. Days not dancing means the body can quickly lose tone, strength, flexibility and stamina. Massage therapy can be part of an overall program used to keep a dancer on her (or his) toes.

Posted in 2014.