More often than not, dancers focus on flexibility and strength in order to avoid injury.
A dancer constantly pushes the body to the extreme and if this intense regime is not carefully monitored, injury is more likely to occur. “No pain, no gain” is not always the best mantra, but many dancers, known for their commitment to the art, keep pushing through.
How can you tell if you are simply feeling sore or if you are feeling the pangs of an injury?
It takes experience and a keen sense of body awareness to sift out injury from daily soreness and dancers become especially tuned in to these differences. Imagine a regular person trying a new fitness routine for the first time. There are challenges, but adrenaline kicks in and they are pushed to new limits and feel great…at least for the next handful of hours.
This person wakes up the next day and can barely roll out of bed because their body is unusually sore from working in this brand new dimension.
For a dancer, this is everyday life. It is a rarity to wake up and not acknowledge at least one kink within the body. Knowing what to look for is key when deciding what can be overcome with a good warm up or what needs a doctor’s attention.
Muscles are made up of tiny interconnected fibers as noted on the diagram below. It may be surprising to know that stretching and strengthening, no matter the specific activity, causes microscopic tears along the muscle. This allows the muscle to expand and is also the primary cause of soreness.
Many athletes are well-aware of the beloved term “second-day soreness”, which is completely normal, as there is usually a one-to-two-day window when it comes to feeling the aftermath of physical activity. The technical term for this effect is Delayed Onset Muscular Soreness (DOMS).
A sore muscle has a tight, aching feeling when at rest, is tender to the touch much like a bruise, and feels tired when moving around. A textbook sore muscle can last up to a few days depending on the intensity of activity, which for dancers, explains why being sore is such a normal state of being.
The best remedy for sore muscles is to keep them warm and moving. The more blood flows through the muscle, the faster the recovery.
Check out our video on Lower Body Massage for Warming Up and Recovery of your muscles:
Muscle soreness does not have much effect on everyday life. A good warm up and a session with a handy foam roller and a dancer can be on their way.
Muscle injury, however, can stop a dancer in their tracks.
Unlike soreness, a telling sign of injury is immediate discomfort while dancing or pain that develops within the day. “Pulling a muscle” is the most common type of overuse injury. When a muscle is pulled or strained, it has been stretched too far to the point where the tendons that connect the muscle to the bone have been affected. This type of injury often feels like a deep ache or sharp pain close to the bone whether moving or at rest.
Because an injury can be career-ending, or at least career-pausing, it is imperative to treat it immediately, starting with a visit to the doctor. A dancer who is stubborn and does not get a potential injury looked at, can expect further delays in recovery.
The best way to treat an injury until it is assessed by a medical professional is good ol’ rest and ice. Even though dancers have a hard time sitting still, it is so important to take a break and rest so the body is able to properly heal.
If you are experiencing signs of muscle soreness or injury, take a moment to care for yourself and do not hesitate to visit the doctor when needed. Keep an eye out for future Injury Edition articles, where we will take a closer look at specific injuries throughout the body. Have a topic in mind? Comment below!
Check out our Lower Body Self Massage and Release Program below:
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