Help your students understand the risks of NSAIDS

If you look inside the dance bag of most of your teenaged students, among the shoes, bobby pins and warm-ups, you will likely find a bottle of over-the-counter painkillers. Many young dancers pop an Advil, Motrin or Aleve—types of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)—as a preventive measure before class, to relieve cramps or soreness after a day of rehearsing, or to mask symptoms of what could be a serious injury.

Dancers tend to take medicines like this because they reduce inflammation and pain. They will do anything to keep moving, says Lori von Alten, a physical therapist for Carolina Ballet and owner of Progress Physical Therapy, both in Raleigh, North Carolina. “Dancers are often afraid to go to the doctor because they don’t want to be told they have to rest or take a break.”

It’s crucial that students know that they can go to their teachers to seek advice when they are hurting, because they often don’t realize the importance of proper dosage or the risks of taking this kind of medication. While teachers should never prescribe medication, they can play the role of trusted advisor in helping dancers understand how to best deal with injuries and when turning to painkillers may not be wise.

WHAT ARE NSAIDS?

NSAIDs are a class of medications that includes ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, Midol Liquid Gels), naproxen (Aleve, Midol Extended Relief) and salicylates (aspirin). These over-the-counter medicines work by stopping the body’s production of substances that cause pain, fever and inflammation, and they are used for reducing fever and relieving mild pain from headaches, muscle aches, arthritis, menstrual periods, the common cold, toothaches and backaches. NSAIDs are often the go-to pain reliever for dancers, who may not be aware of the potentially serious side effects, says Dr. Judith R. Peterson, clinical associate professor at Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota and author of Dance Medicine: Head to Toe: A Dancer’s Guide to Health.

“They may be over-the-counter, but that doesn’t mean they should be taken all the time,” Peterson says. “The reason they work is because they are powerful.”

 

WHAT ARE THE RISKS?

Some of the less serious side effects of ibuprofen and naproxen include constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating, dizziness or ringing in the ears, according to PubMed, a National Institute of Health consumer website. And serious side effects include ulcers, bleeding or holes in the stomach or intestine, and a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Taking the medicine on an empty stomach increases the risk of gastric effects.

Salicylates act slightly differently than ibuprofen and naproxen and carry less risk for adults. However, they can cause Reye’s syndrome (a serious condition where the liver and brain are injured) in children and teenagers, especially if they have a virus such as chicken pox or the flu.

“Any dancer taking NSAIDs [especially for more than two consecutive days] should let their pediatrician or general doctor know, and if a dancer is taking any other type of medication, there can be serious interactions,” Peterson says. Side effects may occur when combined with blood thinners, oral steroids or other NSAIDs, according to PubMed, and may include stomach pain, heartburn, vomit that is bloody or looks like coffee grounds, or black and tarry stools.

One of the most dangerous effects for a dancer who takes NSAIDs regularly is that they may make her unaware that an injury is getting worse, since she is continuously masking the symptoms. “If you’re taking these medications chronically to deal with or to mask pain, you likely have a serious injury that your doctor can help you get to the bottom of,” Peterson says. “Taking painkillers is not going to correct the issue. Just treating the symptom will make your underlying condition worse because you’re not really dealing with the cause of the problem.”

 

WHEN TO USE THEM

NSAIDs can be used to help with temporary pain such as muscle soreness, headaches or menstrual cramps. But overall, dancers should use them “as little as possible” because of the risks involved, Peterson says. While side effects can occur during short-term ingestion, daily long-term NSAIDs use greatly increases the risk. This is why it’s so important to follow the dosage instructions on the bottle. If a dancer feels that she needs a higher dose to effectively get the job done, she should always see a doctor for a prescription, as opposed to just taking more pills. And if a student needs them for more than two days in a row, it’s also an indication she should make an appointment to see her doctor.

Both Peterson and von Alten encourage using alternatives to NSAIDs whenever possible. If von Alten sees a dancer with a chronic injury that has flared up, she may suggest using NSAIDs for a few days to help reduce the inflammation. But for an acute injury, such as a sprain or strain, she recommends ice and rest. Acupuncture can be effective for pain management and reducing inflammation as well, von Alten says. “I will also suggest physical therapy with soft tissue work that might be impacting the area of injury, and I might recommend chiropractic treatment, too.”

Peterson is also “a fan of ice, stretching, solid attention to technique and making sure the student is talking to their teacher. Sometimes we underuse the simple things,” she says. DT

 

Hannah Maria Hayes is a freelance writer with an MA in dance education with an emphasis in American Ballet Theatre pedagogy from New York University.

 

photo ©iStockphoto/Michal Kowalski

Dance Teachers Trending
Roshe (center) teaching at Steps on Broadway in New York City. Photo by Jacob Hiss, courtesy of Roshe

Although Debbie Roshe's class doesn't demand perfect technique or mastering complicated tricks, her intricate musicality is what really challenges students. "Holding weird counts to obscure music is harder," she says of her Fosse-influenced jazz style, "but it's more interesting."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Dean College
Amanda Donahue, ATC, working with a student in her clinic in the Palladino School of Dance at Dean College. Courtesy Dean College

The Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College is one of just 10 college programs in the U.S. with a full-time athletic trainer devoted solely to its dancers. But what makes the school even more unique is that certified athletic trainer Amanda Donahue isn't just available to the students for appointments and backstage coverage—she's in the studio with them and collaborating with dance faculty to prevent injuries and build stronger dancers.

"Gone are the days when people would say, 'Don't go to the gym, you'll bulk up,'" says Kristina Berger, who teaches Horton and Hawkins technique as an assistant professor of dance. "We understand now that cross-training is actually vital, and how we've embraced that at Dean is extremely rare. For one thing, we're not sharing an athletic trainer with the football players, who require a totally different skillset." For another, she says, the faculty and Donahue are focused on giving students tools to prolong their careers.

After six years of this approach, here are the benefits they've seen:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Thinkstock

Since the dawn of time, performers have had to deal with annoying, constant blisters. As every dance teacher knows (and every student is sure to find out), blisters are a fact of life, and we all need to figure out a plan of action for how to deal with them.

Instead of bleeding through pointe shoes and begging you to let them sit out, your students should know these tricks for how to prevent/deal with their skin when it starts to sting.

You're welcome!

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Alternative Balance
Courtesy Alternative Balance

As a dance teacher, you know more than anyone that things can go wrong—students blank on choreography onstage, costumes don't fit and dancers quit the competition team unexpectedly. Why not apply that same mindset to your status as an independent contractor at a studio or as a studio owner?

Insurance is there to give you peace of mind, even when the unexpected happens. (Especially since attorney fees can be expensive, even when you've done nothing wrong as a teacher.) Taking a preemptive approach to your career—insuring yourself—can save you money, time and stress in the long run.

We talked to expert Miriam Ball of Alternative Balance Professional Group about five scenarios in which having insurance would be key.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Brian Guilliaux, courtesy of Coudron

Eric Coudron understands firsthand the hurdles competition dancers face when falling in love with ballet. Now the director of ballet at Prodigy Dance and Performing Arts Centre in Frisco, Texas, Coudron trained as a competition dancer when he was growing up. "It's such a structured form of dance that when they come back to it after all of the other styles they are training in, they don't feel at home at the barre," he says.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Kendra Portier. Photo by Scott Shaw, courtesy of Gibney Dance

As an artist in residence at the University of Maryland in College Park, Kendra Portier is in a unique position. After almost a decade of performing with David Dorfman Dance and three years earning her MFA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she's using her two-year gig at UMD (through spring 2020) to "see how teaching in academia really feels," she says. It's also given her the rare opportunity to feel grounded. "I'm going to be here for two years," she says, which offers her the chance to figure out the answers to some hard questions. "What does it mean to not dance for somebody else?" she asks. "What does it mean to take my work more seriously? To realize I really like making work, and figuring out how that can happen in an academic place."

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by Turn It Up Dance Challenge
Courtesy Turn It Up

With back-to-back classes, early-morning stage calls and remembering to pack countless costume accessories, competition and convention weekends can feel like a whirlwind for even the most seasoned of studios. Take the advice of Turn It Up Dance Challenge master teachers Alex Wong and Maud Arnold and president Melissa Burns on how to make the experience feel meaningful and successful for your dancers:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Health
Deanna Paolantonio leads a workshop. Photo courtesy of Paolantonio

Deanna Paolantonio had been interested in body positivity long before diabetes ever crossed her mind. As a Zumba and Pilates instructor who had just earned her master's degree in dance studies, she focused her research on the relationship between fitness and body image for women and young girls. Then, at age 25, just as she was accepted into the PhD program at York University in Toronto, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D).

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored by The Studio Director

As a studio owner, you're probably pretty used to juggling. Running a business is demanding, with new questions and challenges pulling your attention in a million different directions each day.

But there's a solution that could be saving you time and money (and sanity!). Studio management systems are easy-to-use software programs designed for the particular needs of studio owners, offering tools like billing, enrollment, inventory and emails, all in one place. The right studio management system can help you handle the day-to-day tasks that bog you down as a business owner, leaving you more time for the most important work—like connecting with students and planning creative curriculums for them. Plus, these systems can keep you from spending extra money on hiring multiple specialists or using multiple platforms to meet your administrative needs.

So how do you make sure you're choosing a studio management system that offers the same quality that your studio does? We talked to The Studio Director—whose studio management system provides a whole host of streamlined features—about the must-haves for any system, and the bonuses that make an excellent product stand out:

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Robin Nasatir (center) with Peter Brown and Vicki Gunter. Photo by Christian Peacock

On a sunny Thursday morning in Berkeley, California, Robin Nasatir leads her modern class through a classic seated floor warm-up full of luscious curves and tilts to the soothing grooves of Bobby McFerrin. Though her modern style is rooted in traditional José Limón and Erick Hawkins techniques, the makeup of her class is far from conventional. Her students range in age from 30 all the way to early 80s.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Getty Images

Q: I need advice on proper classroom management for dancers in K–12—I can't get them to focus.

A: Classroom management in a K–12 setting is no different than in a studio. No matter where you teach, I recommend using a positive-reinforcement approach first. As a general rule, what you pay attention to is what you get. When a student acts out, it's generally done in order to gain attention. Rather than giving attention to them for inappropriate behavior, call out other students who are exhibiting the positive behaviors you desire. Name the good actions, and all of your students will quickly learn what it takes to be noticed.

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox