Flexibility is something every dancer looks to increase, and stretching is often how it is achieved. Static stretching to be more specific. While this is most definitely a large component to any flexibility program, I have recently learned about other components that are constantly overlooked.
Facial Tension and Neural Mobility.
Lisa Howell, a dance physiotherapist in Australia, has created a program called "Front Splits Fast". When I first glanced at the title, I'll admit, I was skeptical. In my experience, nothing worthwhile ever happens fast. It sounded more like the title you might see for a weight loss program. Despite my skepticism, I know Lisa Howell's work and I respect her for the work she has done with dancers, so I took a further look.
Surprise surprise, I learned something new.
One component I hadn't really ever taken into much consideration was fascial tension. Sure I knew the benefit or using rollers to help relieve facial tension in a particular area, but I never put a lot of thought into fascia as a system. It was silly of me of course, the entire body is a machine that requires every component to work. A painful toe, can cause altered movement mechanics which can lead to problems much farther up the movement chain. That's no big secret, so why would the body's fascia be any different? It does cover the ENTIRE muscular and skeletal system, connecting not only muscle and bone, but internal organs as well.
Just like a sore toe can cause hip and back problem, tight traps and neck can cause tension in that can restrict the hamstrings. This fascial tensions is not the sole contributor of this issue, neural mobility also plays its role.
Neural Mobility is exactly what it sounds like, ability of the nerves to move. Just as the fascia covers the body, nerves run through every aspect of the body. Not every nerve is made equally. Some are infinitesimally small and some are closer to the size of string or rope. As your body moves, the organs and muscles slide around these nerves. If a particular area is restricted, this sliding can't take place creating a sensation of "tightness" limiting one's flexibility.
This all sounds great in theory, but it's quite something to witness first hand. I was working with a young dancer who was quite frustrated that no matter how frequently she stretched, she wasn't gaining any more flexibility. A collegue pointed me toward Lisa's program. For our next session I decided to try some sub-occipital release and upper trap release. With just about 3-5 minutes of release work her hamstring flexibility improved immediately. After seeing the results, I started asking some questions and discovered that this young dancer also suffered from frequent tension headaches. I had been so focused on her lower body strength and flexibility, I hadn't really taken the time to analyze how she held her upper body. It was clear that her upper traps dominated her shoulder movement and unequally at that. I mentally chastised myself, as I should not have had such a tunnel vision approach when working with her, I know better than that.
I'm getting off topic, so I'll come back and tie it all together. Every young dancer strives for more flexibility, and by no means am I saying that stretching is unnecessary. I'm simply saying it's not the only component. No dancer is the same, and this will not be the solution for every dancer struggling with their flexibility, but it may help some. Below I have linked to Lisa Howell's page, who for any dancer, is a great source of information.
CarliAnn here! Recently I have begun visiting a chiropractor for misalignment issues, before this I was a skeptic. I work three jobs: dance for dance company, coach gymnastics to elementary-age kids, and serve/bartend at a restaurant. All of these jobs on their own are physically demanding. Together, they eventually led to a kink in my neck so intense that I couldn't turn my head to shoulder check while driving. Needless to say, I would have done anything for full mobility. When a co-worker suggested I go see a chiropractor, I thought "let's give this a try".
I should explain why I was a skeptic in the first place. Mainly it was from lack of knowledge and hearing the "horror" stories: "My friend's dance teacher suffered a stroke after going to the chiropractor."
From my research I have found that strokes from visiting the chiropractor are extremely rare, 1% in fact. The other concern I had was someone actually "cracking" my back and neck. I am not one to do that on my own so the loud sounds and discomfort that may occur was a concern for me.
After speaking with my chiropractor, he laid out more than one option for treatment. One choice could be the faster manual alignment option with the cracks and pops. The second option is a longer, more gentler sliding of bones back into alignment. After all of my concerns, believe it or not, I chose the first option. I learned that the cracks and pops are carbon dioxide being released that were trapped due to the misalignment of the skeleton and knots in the muscles. After knowing that, it made the loud sounds manageable. He also applied direct pressure to the knots in my back muscles to loosen up those tight areas.
Since my first appointment, I have been back to see my chiropractor a handful of times. The healing process begins right away, but going back to see him has helped keep the process going. I did need to ice at points in the day and before bed, due to the inflammation that was present from the initial injury. I feel more relaxed through my shoulders, back and neck than I have in a long time. It has made my dancing better, as well as my sleeping. While I am raving about chiropractic treatment, let me tell you a little bit more about it:
Chiropractic care involves hands on manipulation and other treatments to align the musculoskeletal structure, mainly joints and the spine. The purpose is to allow the body to heal from traumatic events such as falling or repetitive movement without medicine or surgery. Chiropractic care works mainly with the structure components of the body including: tendons, ligaments, bones, and cartilage. Complaints of headaches, leg or arm pain can also be resolved with the help of a chiropractor. Nerves can be pinched by misaligned bones or the swelling of the surrounding tissue. This can lead to sciatic nerve pain in the legs, shooting pain down the arms or headaches. For more information and for other dancer's views on their experiences, please check out the links below:
References are seen above.
This is very exciting! Check it out! Seattle Dance Medicine is providing a free screening this weekend, October 27th. For more information check out this link.
With it being cold and flu season and many of us are teaching and dancing, how do we protect ourselves? When is it best to stay home and rest with your favorite television series on netflix? When is it best to carry on with a box of tissue and emergenC packages as your side kicks?
First and foremost, wash your hands and encourage your students and fellow dancers to do the same. Keep in mind that antibacterial soap and hand sanitizers are not the answer. Only use when there is nothing else available! We all have heard that using antibacterial anything, from cleaning supplies to stainless steel to hand soap can contribute to the creation of "super bugs". Super bugs are germs that do not respond to the antibiotics that are available to us and are becoming increasingly difficult to treat. It is for this reason that it is imperative to fully complete antibiotics prescribed to us, rather than discontinue when we are feeling better.
Secondly: fluids, fluids, rest, fluids, balanced diet, fluids, regular exercise, fluids, rest....fluids
Remaining hydrated and well rested is always a good idea, but especially now. This will give your immune system the back up it needs to protect your body. This also means that if you get sick, you will bounce back sooner. A well balanced diet and regular exercise are also important to being in the best shape possible when an infection may strike.
Incubation and Contagious STages of an Infection
There is some discrepancy of when a person is contagious and when they are not. There are two periods to pay attention to in the course of an illness: Incubation stage and contagious stage.
The incubation stage is when the individual has been exposed to the virus and the virus has infected a particular area of the body. There are no symptoms at this stage, but that does not mean you are not contagious.
The contagious stage begins when the virus breaks out of the initially infected cells. The immune system notices the virus and symptoms begin to show. Achy muscles, sore throat, runny nose. As the virus continues and the immune system is working hard, fever and exhaustion may appear as tactics to defeating the virus. In the event of fever, it is best to stay home because you are contagious.
You are most likely contagious before you being to show symptoms. Here are some links with more detailed information about incubation and contagious periods of particular viruses and symptoms. Please keep in mind this is just for reference and always consult with a medical professional for further information and instruction.
For more general information, please check out this great site!
Recently, heel pain has been a common complaint in the classes I coach gymnastics. Most of the time resulting in the gymnast missing key portions of the class. After doing some research, I came across information concerning Sever's Disease, one possible cause for heel pain in young athletes.
Sever's Disease is found in pre-adolescent boys and girls ages 9 to 14. This is a temporary disease, as it is related to the growth patterns of the body. The calcaneus bone (heel bone) grows at a faster rate than the achilles tendon that is attached to it. This creates greater tension on the attachment site on the calcaneus bone. Sever's Disease is inflammation and pain caused by aggravation of this attachment site. This disease is more common in athletic/active children due to repetitive high impact pounding such as running or jumping, as well as tight hamstrings, quadriceps or calf muscles.
This condition may manifest itself as red, swollen, tender heels, tight achilles tendons or calf muscles. It is best for the gymnast or dancer to seek medical attention to look at options for treatment. Some treatment options may include a heel cup, an ankle brace-like support that has a slight pad at the heel to relieve some stress on the achilles by decreasing the angle (Image Below). Another option may also be orthotics or taped arch support. As well as stretching the hamstrings, quadriceps, and calf muscles followed by icing the area for maximum 10 minutes will help with inflammation and tightness. Physical therapy is also a course of treatment that will help decrease pain and get your student back to their sports. It is always a good idea to seek a medical professional's opinion when there is pain. When the growth plates close, which takes about two years, the pain should go away. For more information concerning this condition please check out the links below:
References: (above links)
As a dancers, we twist, fall, jump, run up walls and throw ourselves into other human's bodies on purpose! We love what we do but this movement can cause new or repetitive stresses on the body that can cause imbalances that leads to aches, pains, and creaky joints. These imbalances could be muscular, circulatory, or even digestive.
There are many ways in which one can maintain their body. Chiropractor, acupuncture, physical therapy. One option that is a bit less well known is Osteopathy. Osteopathy is a natural medicine, that assesses the body as a whole and uses manual techniques to balance the body's systems. Analysis of all the systems of the body (visceral, digestive, musculo-skeletal, circulatory, neurological, and cranial) takes place. Looking at how these systems are working together and if they are balanced. Osteopathy uses a hands on approach to balance these systems in the body, to get the body back to normal function. Examples of hands on work may include realigning the sacrum, releasing the femur in the hip joint, or moving organs back to proper place in the torso. While this may sound intense and perhaps a little scary. From personal experience, I can confidently say the experience of going to a Osteopathic practitioner is a very positive one.
What is unique about osteopathy, is it's holistic (whole body) approach. If the ankle is hurting because it is jammed up, a practitioner will assess how that misalignment as affected the rest of the body. On your first visit with an Osteopathic Practitioner, you will receive an interview and a full body evaluation. In the States there are Doctors of Osteopath and in Canada there are DOPM, also known as Osteopathic Practioners. These two roles are similar but not the same. For more information please refer to the links below.
Yoga is a wonderful way to improve your life through fitness. It is also a great option for cross-training, whether you dance, do gymnastics, run, walk, play soccer, etc. Yoga focuses on centering the body and mind through the use of breath and balance. Using breath with movement is good practice for dancers, as most of the time dancers, especially younger dancers, can forget to breath while moving. Focused breathing will also helps to increase stamina and lung capacity.
Connecting the mind with body is also good practice because it is essential to know where the body is in space and how is feeling in terms of injury prevention. The physical aspects of yoga include increasing flexibility through remaining in poses for a set time and breathing through them. Yoga has many poses that strengthen the muscles of the feet and lower legs such as tree pose or hand in foot pose.
Another important aspect of yoga that makes it great for cross-training, is that it works all sides (front, back, right and left sides) of the body equally. This is sometimes not the case in dance, as a dancer or choreographer will favor a particular side or style of moving that is not equal.
Here are some more benefits of yoga for dancers:
There are great ways to check out yoga and see if it is right for you. Most studios have beginning specials or trial weeks, where you can come in and try out the different styles of yoga.
Vancouver BC studios:
Seattle WA studios:
For more information on yoga please check out this great resource:
Potassium is an important mineral in the body. If the body is depleted of potassium it is unable to repolarise cells which can lead to improper muscular contraction (ie. such as cramps) or muscle weakness and fatigue. Some possible causes of potassium depletion can be from dehydration or inadequate dietary intake.
Bananas are a common source of potassium. It is popular because it can be a healthy easy snack to carry with you, providing you will about 12% of your daily value (DV) of potassium. However, bananas are not the only possible sources of potassium. Below is a list of other possible sources of potassium:
This is by no means a comprehensive list, there are many ways to obtain potassium in your diet, however, most of these are easy snacking foods and can easily be used in lunches or mid-day snacks.
The International Association of Dance Medicine & Science was established in 1990 by a group of international dance medicine practitioners, dance scientists, dance educators and dancers. Since it’s inception, the association has grown to over 900 members from 35 different countries around the world. The goals of the association can be summed up by their mission statement:
"IADMS enhances the health, well-being, training, and performance of dancers by cultivating educational, medical, and scientific excellence."
Every year a scientific conference is held in venues around the world. This annual meeting is multidisciplinary and attended by healthcare professionals, educators, artists, administrators and dance professionals. Becoming a member of IADMS has a number of benefits, the greatest being the information that can be gathered regarding dance medicine/science knowledge and the connections that can be made attending the meetings and joining in on the discussion of new findings.
To become a member visit the IADMS website: http://www.iadms.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=1
IADMS is a great resource for any dance science/medicine questions because they are continually publishing new findings as the demand for the knowledge grows.
IADMS website. About IADMS. 2013 http://www.iadms.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=8
This post from theballetblog.com has great information about training your deep external rotators to help with engaging turnout. One thing I particularly like about this post is the training of the standing leg. The standing leg is just as important as the moving leg, sometimes more so if it is needing to stay turned out while supporting your entire body weight. Check it out!
Isolating your True Turnout
CarliAnn & Ella