Pain is an inevitable part of a dancing life and dancers have a high tolerance for it, according to Sean Gallagher, a New York physical therapist whose practice includes many professional performers. "So when dancers complain, it really means something," he says.

But women and men experience pain differently, and tend to be treated for it differently as well. Female dancers need to understand those differences before they go to a doctor, so they can make sure they get treated promptly and effectively.


Several years ago, The Journal of Pain published a study that found that women are at a greater risk than men of developing chronic pain conditions. A recent Stanford University study, also published in The Journal of Pain, found that women actually experience pain more intensely than men. And a landmark report published by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, determined that doctors tend to underestimate women's reports of pain more often than men's.

So what should a female dancer do?

Be prepared for doctors who might dismiss your pain. Photo by Oles Kanebckuu/Stocksnap


If she minimizes her pain to protect her career, which some dancers feel they must, she likely will be under-treated. Even if she reports her pain accurately, there's a good chance that a doctor's gender bias, however unconscious, may mean she does not get the help she needs.

"I see the gender gap for pain in my practice," says Elizabeth Manejías, a dance medicine physician at Hospital for Special Surgery's Integrative Care Center in New York City. "And the longer you have pain, the more your brain and nervous system become used to having that pain, and the cycle of pain becomes more challenging to interrupt. Early diagnosis can help."

Gallagher and Manejías have several suggestions to help female dancers get early and optimal treatment.

See An Expert

If you are not in a locale where it's easy to find a dance medicine doctor, your next choice should be someone with a sports medicine concentration. "Look for a doctor who works with ice skaters or gymnasts, since they are familiar with the repetitive-use injuries that resemble dance injuries," says Gallagher. "If the doctor just tells you to stop dancing, get another opinion."

Prep For Your Appointment

You only have so much time in front of the physician, so make it count. "Write down your questions and key points in your pain history to help stay focused during your visit," says Manejías. "If you don't understand the physician's approach, ask for a further explanation."

Request Physical Therapy

If you end up seeing an internist or family doctor who does not have expertise in treating dance or sport injuries, make sure you ask for a prescription for physical therapy. "It's the physical therapist who understands how your movement relates to your pain," says Gallagher.

Get A Referral

You are not the first dancer to be in pain. This is the time to utilize your network. "Dancers should reach out to other dancers or teachers who have had a positive experience with a particular physician," adds Manejías. Gallagher also recommends the web as a resource, noting that the American Physical Therapy Asso­ciation lists PTs by region and that IADMS can help you find a dance medicine specialist in your area.

Show Comments ()
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Kyle Froman

The back is an essential focus of Cynthia Harvey's ballet classes, especially as a part of port de bras. Here, she offers "plain," en face port de bras, followed by the same position with épaulement, to show the difference the back (and head and neck) can add to any position. Aspirational imagery helps students find their best épaulement: "Feel as if you have a tiara on," says Harvey. "Don't look like a student—look like a ballerina."

Keep reading... Show less

So you've achieved your dream of owning a studio. Congratulations! Once that initial excitement wears off, we're betting that you'll discover just how overwhelming the day-to-day operation of such an endeavor really is. When you choose to run your own business, you're bound to encounter challenges, but with a unique business model at the center of it all, studio management certainly comes with its own hurdles, creating a perpetual learning curve that keeps both new studio owners and veterans on their toes.

Although a certain amount of this difficulty is to be expected for any studio, there's no longer any reason for you to suffer needlessly through each step of the way. All you have to do is reach out for a tool you can use to take your studio to the next level, namely studio management software.

Tools like our very own acclaimed Studio Director software can make a world of difference in virtually every aspect of your business. Let's run through some key ways in which this tool can revolutionize your studio.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun

The World Cup captivates soccer fans this time of year. But if football (as most outside of the U.S. refer to it) isn't your jam, this hybrid of disco dancing, ballet and soccer just might be more intriguing.

Keep reading... Show less

A popular and highly sought-after dancer and choreographer, Geo Hubela has worked with stars and productions all over the world from French pop star "Lorie" to the MTV show BeComing. Geo isn't just a choreography sensation. He has also danced on film, onstage, and on TV. He was worked with everyone from *NSYNC to JLo. On top of his incredible professional career, Geo owns a dance studio called Icon Dance Complex.

Owning and running a successful dance studio is not an easy task. Showstopper got together with Geo for his advice on going from a professional dancer to studio owner.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Students at Steps Consevatory in NYC.

Dancers who dare to sing increase their marketability, according to voice teacher Jan Horvath.

It's one thing to master a triple pirouette, she says. It's another to be a well-rounded performer who can tackle any challenge without being discouraged.

Horvath teaches voice at Steps Conservatory, a two-year professional dance program in New York City. Once a week, she leads two groups of 10 students in a 90-minute vocal course.

"It's like a ballet barre," she explains. "We focus on one little thing of the day and perfect it and move on."

Keep reading... Show less
Kerollis and students in his 8-week Absolute Beginner Workshop at Broadway Dance Center.

When most people think of dance students, they imagine lithe children and teenagers waltzing around classrooms with their legs lifted to their ears. It doesn't often cross our minds that dance training can involve an older woman trying to build strength in her body to ward off balance issues, or a middle-aged man who didn't have the confidence to take a dance class as a boy for fear of bullying.

Anybody can begin to learn dance at any age. But it takes a particular type of teacher to share our art form with dancers who have few prospects beyond fun and fitness a few nights a week.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Rachel Neville, courtesy of Irwin

Shanna Irwin vividly remembers her introduction to Complexions Contemporary Ballet. She was dancing Clara in the New Jersey Dance Theatre Ensemble's production of The Nutcracker. Guest artists from Complexions performed as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, and from the moment Irwin saw them dance, she was hooked. Years later, as a senior at Marymount Manhattan College, Complexions co-artistic director Desmond Richardson invited Irwin to fill in for one of his injured dancers for the end of the spring 2014 season, and her long-held dream of performing with the company became a reality. She's been dazzling Complexions' audiences with her undeniable strength, full-bodied performances and eternally lengthened lines ever since.

See her perform June 17 with Complexions at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored