Self-myofascial release, aka foam rolling, is becoming more and more popular in the sports injury world. Myofascial release was developed by a physiotherapist in Boulder, Colorado, USA as a hands on soft tissue technique that facilitates a stretch to an area of restricted connective tissue (fascia). Therapists and fitness professionals us myofascial release work in program warm ups, cool downs, injury rehabilitation, injury prevention and training programs. Currently there are limited peer-reviewed studies on the uses and effect of foam rolling, but a recent study was published on the effects of a rolling program for the quadriceps muscle. After two one-minute bouts of foam rolling of the quadriceps, with a 30sec rest in between, the range of motion(ROM) of the knee increased 12.7 % after two minutes of the rolling test and 10.3% after 10 minutes of the test. The study showed that even with this increase in ROM there was no decrease in force production of the quadriceps muscle.
There is still much more research to be done in this area, this particular study focused on the acute effects of self-myofascial release but the long term effects have not been studied. It is still unclear if the increased ROM can cause a more permanent increase or if over time the muscle length returns to it’s “pre-rolled” length. If nothing else this is a gateway into further research on the matter. For dancers, perhaps using this technique included in a warm-up would be beneficial, since a great degree of flexibility is important.
Barnes, M. . (1997). The Basic Science of Myofascial release: morphologic change in connective tissue. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 1(4), 231–238.
MacDonald, G. Z., Penney, M. D. H., Mullaley, M. E., Cuconato, A. L., Drake, C. D. J., Behm, D. G., & Button, D. C. (2013). An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release Increase Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activiation or Force. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(3), 812–821.
The hamstring muscle group is located on the back of the thigh. It consists of three muscles: the semimembranosis, semitendinosis and biceps femoris. This muscle group attaches to the pelvis at various locations and inserts on the locations both inside and outside of the knee joint. The hamstring muscle group cross both the hip joint and the knee joint, therefore having a key role in alignment of the pelvis and lower body. Due to the location of the hamstring muscle group and the attachment points of the individual muscles, the hamstrings are responsible for extending the hip and flexing the knee. More specifically:
To prevent injury to the hamstring, it is important to balance strength of the muscle group with flexibility.
Stretches that focus specifically on the hamstrings are good to work into mild stretches after warm up and before rehearsal or activity. Sitting in a pike position or hurdler position, bending forward at the hips till you feel a stretch behind the knee and thigh, is just one way to stretch the hamstring and increase flexibility. For strengthening, lunges with proper alignment of knee over toes and bending till a 90 degree angle is made, is one simple way to strengthen the hamstrings.
Lisa Howell is a physiotherapist from North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia who specializes in the education and treatment of dancers. She has created a number of great online resources for dancers looking to improve their performance, particularly information about the preparation and preparedness of young dancers going on pointe. Check her out!
While dancers have great flexibility and muscular strength, cardiovascular fitness can sometimes be forgotten or ignored. This is not healthy for the grand picture of balanced health. It is important to work in time specifically for cardiovascular fitness.
The technical definition of cardiovascular fitness is the heart, lungs and organs to consume and utilize the oxygen transported in the blood and pumped by the heart through the body. Increasing cardiovascular fitness results in more efficient circulation of oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. This means increasing the strength of the heart muscle thereby increasing blood volume propelled with each pump of the heart. The body in turn adapts to be more efficient in using the oxygen. The resting heart rate of a person with good cardiovascular fitness is lower, which is good because the heart does not have to work as hard to supply blood to the body at that time.
There are many, many health benefits to having good cardiovascular fitness. Some of those being decreased chance of cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes. Not to mention lower chance of depression, stress, anxiety, and increased self-confidence.
What constitutes cardiovascular fitness? What types of exercise and for what duration does one need in order to reach these benefits listed above? According to studies and the recommendation of Surgeon General, 30 minutes of moderate exercise all days of the week is preferable. A brisk walk for 30 minutes resulting in 3 to 4 miles of walking will do the trick. Other forms of exercise will work as well, such as yard work, cycling, swimming, etc. The exercise should require the large muscle groups to work dynamically. Jogging, running, cross-country skiing, and skating are all also good examples of exercise. For most dancers, high impact weight bearing exercise such as running can be a concern. Swimming is a great alternative. Keep in mind that high impact exercise does not need to cause concern with the proper technique and foot wear. Not to mention weight bearing exercise can help keep bones strong, requiring the body to keep laying down calcium to those bones to handle the stress being applied to them. For more information on exercise please check out these websites:
It is no secret that after any acute muscle strain it is important to ice the injured muscle. Icing helps in a number of ways, it slows the blood flow to the injured area which helps, reduce inflammation, preserve the healthy cells in the area and decrease tissue necrosis. This helps to minimize the tissue scar that is formed.
Scar tissue is not as flexible as muscle tissue, so minimizing the amount of scar tissue is helpful for a faster recovery back to dance. Many times muscle strains can get re-injured when trying to get back to moving because dancers have lost the flexibility they once had.
Another way to help decrease the loss in flexibility is to ice your muscles in a lengthened position. By icing the muscle in a lengthened position the scar tissue will form already lengthened, allowing for a more normal range of flexibility for the muscle. This does not mean stretch while you ice, still ensure the muscle is relaxed, but don’t ice the muscle in a shortened state. Here are some examples on how to ice common injuries in a lengthened position:
Think about where the muscle originates and inserts and make sure those points are moving away from each other to ensure your muscle is lengthened. Remember, ice for 10-20 minutes at a time as frequently as you are able. You know it is okay to ice again when your skin temperature returns to normal. If it is still red and still cool to touch wait a bit longer before icing.
Järvinen, T. A. H., Järvinen, T. L. N., Kääriäinen, M., Aärimaa, V., Vaittinen, S., Kalimo, H., & Järvinen, M. (2007). Muscle injuries: optimising recovery. Best practice & research. Clinical rheumatology, 21(2), 317–31. doi:10.1016/j.berh.2006.12.004
Bromelain is a protein digesting enzyme found in the stem and fruit of pineapples, though the fruit contains a different composition of bromelain than the stem. Often there is a higher concentration found in the stem of the pineapple. Bromelain has been used for a number of different medical, biochemical and pharmacological uses:
For cardiovascular illness, Bromelain has been shown to prevent or minimize the severity of angina pectoris (chest pain) and transient ischemic attacks, inhibits the collection of blood platelets in the vessels, and has been hypothesized to attenuate asthmatic attacks.
In the treatment of osteoarthritis, Bromelain can provide an alternate treatment to nonsterioidal Anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), because of its pain reducing properties.
Administrating Bromelain before surgery has been found to decrease the average number of days for disappearance of pain and inflammation. It is now often used to assist with acute sports injuries.
Dosage varies from 80 to 320 mg/day. It has a fairly low toxicity level with a lethal dose of 10 g/ day. It is easily absorbed orally, however, to achieve therapeutic doses for acute injuries, bromelain is needed in a supplement form, not in it’s fruit form. This does not mean that you shouldn’t bother with pineapple. It is a delicious fruit that may just help ward of cancer or chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular
Johnson, K. (2013)Bromelain (Bromelin). VItamins and Supplements Lifestyle Guide. WebMD. Accessed Aug 22, 2013. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-bromelain-bromelin
Maurer, H. R. (2001). Bromelain: biochemistry, pharmacology and medical use. Cellular and molecular life sciences : CMLS, 58(9), 1234–45. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11577981
Pavan, R., Jain, S., Shraddha, & Kumar, A. (2012). Properties and therapeutic application of bromelain: a review. Biotechnology research international, 2012, 976203. doi:10.1155/2012/976203
Photo credit: http://foodisgross.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/969pineapple.jpeg
The shoulder complex, as it sounds, is a very complex area of the body. It is comprised of the clavicle (collar bone), sternum, scapula (shoulder blade) and humerus. The articulations of all of these bones allows for the 360° of mobility at the “shoulder joint”. There are four major articulations associated with the shoulder complex:
1. Sternocalvicular Joint –the articulation where the manubrium of the sternum meets the clavicle. The area is the only direct connection between the upper extremity and trunk. The anterior and posterior Sternoclavicular ligaments connects the two bones strengthening the anterior and posterior joint respectively. There is a fibrocartilage disc which functions as a shock absorber. The disc is positions so that the clavicle may move up and down, forward and backward, in combination and in rotation.
2. Acromioclavicular Joint – the articulation between the lateral end of the clavicles with the acromion process of the scapula. It is a fairly week joint by a fibrocartilage disc and encased in a thin fibrous capsule. Both the acromioclavicular ligament and the coracoclavicular ligament prevent upward displacement of the clavicle.
3. Glenohumeral Joint – This is the ball-and-socket joint typically called the “shoulder joint”. The round head of the humerus (the ball) and the glenoid cavity of the scapula (the socket) make up this joint. The coracohumeral ligment connects from the coracoid process of the scapula to the humerus strengthening the superior part of the joint. The glenohumeral ligament connects from the apex of the glenoid cavity of the scapula to the humerus strengthening the anterior part of the joint. The glenoid labrum is a band of fibrocartilage that attaches within the glenoid cavity helping to deepen the cavity.
4. Scapulothoracic Joint – This is not actually a true joint, better described as the movement of the scapula along the thoracic cage. However, this movement is critical to shoulder motion. The muscles that attach from the rib cage and spine stabilize the scapula providing the base from which the shoulder joint can function. The scapulothoracic joint allow for elevation, depression, protraction, retraction, abduction and adduction of the scapula.
The high mobility of the shoulder joint leads to less stability. For dancers, the common types of injuries to the shoulder joint and complex include dislocations, tendinitis of tendon of the bicep, bursitis, and muscular tears in the rotator cuff. These injuries often occur when there is lifting involved. To help prevent these issues conditioning of the muscles supporting the movement of the joint should be strengthened as well as ensuring lifting is done safely and efficiently.
Here are six basic principles(1) that can be used for efficient lifting:
Key muscle groups to strengthen for lifting:
1. Fitt, S. S. (1996). Muscles of the Scapula and the Shoulder. In Dance Kinesiology (2nd ed., pp. 193–208). Schirmer Books.
2. Prentice, W. E. (2009). Anatomy of the Shoulder. In Arnheim’s Principles of Athletic Training: a competency-based approach (13th ed., pp. 743–749). New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education.
photo credit: http://www.whitetigernaturalmedicine.com/craniosacral-therapy/craniosacral-therapy-upper-shoulder-pain
Lester Horton founded a modern technique that utilizes strong lines and powerful jumps and turns. This form of technique has developed into a very athletic and expressive style of dance. Many dancers credit Horton for their success. Most notably among those dancers is: Alvin Ailey, Janet Collins, Bella Lewitzky, Carmen de Lavallade, and James Truitte.
Lester Horton was inspired by Native American culture from the beginning. He toured with Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn's dance company, where he was a jack of all trades, helping out with costumes, rehearsal, and general production as well as dancing. After a few years, Horton moved to Los Angeles where he began to work with Michio Ito, an innovative artist from Japan. It was the combination of Japan art and Native American dance became a large influence Horton's technique. Horton created a dance company on the West Coast when majority of dance was flocking to New York. It was there that he brought together many talented dancers technique and dance expression.
For more information check out these websites:
In our ideal world, every dance studio would have their own "conditioning room" and conditioning classes would be mandatory for all dancers. It is unrealistic to expect all studios to undergo renovations to build a space specifically for conditioning. Here are a few items that a studio can provide to assist in the conditioning for their dancers:
Therabands – Therabands come in a number of colours depending on their resistance level. These large elastic bands are usually used to train and strengthen a dancer’s ankle and foot muscles, however, they can also be used to strengthen many other muscle groups.
Wobble board – Wobble boards are great proprioceptive tools for rehabilitating lower limb joint injuries, particularly ankle injuries.
TRX Suspension kit – Strength training can have many benefits for a dancer, and you don’t necessarily need free weights or weight machines to get those benefits. The TRX is a great tool to use one’s own body weight as a way to strength train.
Free Weights – The great advantage to using free weights to strength train is the necessity to engage core and postural stabilizers while working a specific muscle group. It give more “real-world” application to the training exercise.
While yes, it would be nice if every studio could afford to offer all of the above listed items, the reality is, the funds are often not available. This doesn’t change the importance of training a dancer’s body outside the class technique. If it isn’t feasible to condition the dancers in the studio, then encourage dancers to condition their bodies outside the studio. Increase their cardio-respiratory capacity, increase their muscular strength. As long as they are conditioning in a safe manner they will see the benefits both inside and outside the studio
The knee joint is one of the largest joints in the body. There are three bones that meet at this joint. The femur (thigh bone), the tibia (weight bearing shin bone), and the fibula bone (smaller non-weight bearing bone). The patella, also known as the knee cap also makes up the knee joint. There are four ligaments that play key roles in holding the knee joint in place:
The knee joint is an area of high use and can lead to wear and tear.
Common acute injuries that occur in the knee include:
Common overuse injuries include:
(Tip: inflammation of an area is indicated by -itis)
If faced with knee pain, you should seek out medical help. Other options to do ALONGSIDE seeking medical help include:
Treatment of knee injuries include first aid, bracing, rest, physical therapy, medicine, in some cases surgery. The treatment depends on the location of the injury and mechanism of injury.
Photo credit: Seif_knee anatomy01
CarliAnn & Ella