Q:I have a very flexible spine and torso. My teachers tell me to use this flexibility during cambrés and port de bras, but when I do, I feel pain—mostly in my lower back. What should I change so I don't end up with back problems?
Ashley Wegman, Atlanta Ballet; courtesy of the author
Working as the physical therapist for the Atlanta Ballet, Amanda Blackmon often sees dancers who report hip pain, high hamstring strain or sacroiliac sensitivity and soreness. And while there are a host of reasons for such pains, including the often discussed gripped glute and hip flexor muscles, there is one overlooked culprit: dysfunction in the pelvic floor muscles. Though pelvic floor health has become a hot topic for women postpartum who often need to strengthen weakened and compromised muscles, there is a different set of concerns when it comes to athletes and dancers. "I often see a hypertonic pelvic floor," says Blackmon, "meaning the muscles are overactive or gripped and tight. Also, the obturator internus muscle is an external rotator that is also part of the pelvic floor. When that is gripped (particularly in turnout), it can refer pain to several places around the hip and high hamstring."
Dietitians give straight answers to young dancers' most common questions. Thinkstock
Certain diet myths have persisted for decades. And Instagram and Facebook tend to magnify whatever wellness trends are hot. "Eating healthy is easy, but social media is making it so hard," says Rachel Fine, founder of To The Pointe Nutrition. With so much misinformation out there and compelling photography that markets crazes like #cleaneating as keys to covetable bodies, it's wise to listen to qualified professionals more than influencers. DT asked five experienced nutritionists and dietitians to set the record straight on dancers' most commonly asked questions.
You've seen them: dancers, still recovering from a holiday food coma, shuffling into class in a woozy, post-vacation stupor. (You may even know the feeling yourself.) It's all they can do to make it through their classes, and by day two, they're stiff, sore and moaning about it.
“Winter break is the worst," says Rubén Graciani, chair of dance and associate artistic director, Conservatory of Performing Arts, at Point Park University. Not many students take a January intensive, and with no school for about four weeks, it's just long enough to fall seriously out of shape—especially if dancers aren't cross-training.
“The biggest thing is stamina," he says. “Jumping into that schedule—11 to 13 technique classes a week—it's really hard on their bodies."
A few months ago, both my knees started hurting after I would exercise. Now, the pain occurs at the bottom of my kneecap and is the worst when I lock my knees. I've been doing a little research, and I was wondering if this could be Osgood-Schlatter disease. If it is, do you have any tips to help my knee pain?