Being injured as a dancer can be a frustrating and heart sinking experience but I think it is important to use the time positively and to consider what has caused the injury and why. The body is clever and is trying to tell you something, that either there is a problem with a movement pattern whilst training or you are ignoring signs the body is giving you. I have been recently injured and it has forced to me to review how I train and teach and what I now have to do to not let it happen again.
Being injured whilst training or part of a company can feel isolating and as if you are falling behind. Being a dancer becomes a sense of identity and being injured makes this feel like a half truth. It can effect all aspect of a dancer’s life and create physical limitations that can impact on daily living. It can effect confidence and self esteem and trigger anxiety about making it through the rehearsal process to a performance or completing a module if in training.
This all sounds a bit gloomy, which on the onset it does feel like this but I think it is important to take charge, use the recovery time positively and efficiently to heal and respond to the experience. As mentioned, an injury is the body’s way of indicating that something is not right and an area of training needs to be addressed, adapted or altered. This area of weakness needs to be focused on to develop strength again. It is a classic that dancers always give advice to others to have early signs of injuries checked but can be inclined to put off their own treatment or seeking a specialist for help. It is a frequent occurrence that we as dancers ignore injuries until they become really bad, which can sometimes be linked to the cost of treatments. However, thinking logically, our bodies are so important and need to be fully functioning and well tuned to work at its full potential.
How can we think positively when we have an injury?
1. Enjoy the time to rest and use the time to watch class to your advantage. We actually learn a lot from observing a class or rehearsal and it gives a completely different view point. We can see our peers and teacher in action and from another perspective. It is interesting to be on the sideline and see how others perform and interact with one another.
2. Use the time to explore what is causing the weak spot and figure how how you can help to fix it. What do you need to do to not let it happen again? How can you manage this for the future? Does it mean you need to explore different ways of moving? Adding in extra Pilates and strength work? Does it mean you need to warm up and cool down in a different way, placing more attention on the weak area? Do you need to plan regular massages and treatments ( yes, they can be expensive but they are worth it ).
3. Be patient with yourself and the healing process. Try to not rush back into training as it can cause more damage. I was told by my chiropractor that if the injury lasts for one week and starts to feel better by the end of that week, allow another week to rest (totalling 2 weeks off from dancing). Same as if you were injured and in pain for 4 weeks, allow another 4 weeks for rest (totalling in 8 weeks recovery time).
4. Eat a nutritional, balanced and healing diet that is going to support your recovery time. Avoid junk food, sugary drinks, alcohol and too much caffeine. The toxins from the alcohol leave residues in the muscles and slows the recovery time down as well as dehydrating the body.
5. Use meditation techniques to rest the body and allow the muscles to release. It also allows the brain to stop chattering and to dismiss anxiety from creeping in. I personally found meditation hard at first but I have found, with practice it has become easier and hugely beneficial in my recovery time. I have also found it useful on days of exhaustion and when I have needed to rest in between classes or rehearsals.
6. Seek proper treatment from a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor or Osteopath. GPs will generally tell you to rest and take pain killers but I find this does not address the root of the problem. Sometimes you will need to go to a GP to refer you to see a specialist if you go via the NHS route. In Bath, we are lucky to have the Dance Again Foundation, which I have been able to make use of. This foundation was set up to support injured dancers and help them return back to dance. It is located in the Sports Injury Clinic at the Bath Royal United Hospital. The Physios are ex- professional dancers, which is wonderful to have and they can fully understand the dancer’s life and the impact an injury can have on a dancer’s mental health. To read further information: http://www.danceagain.org