Whoever said "laughter is the best medicine" clearly never tried dancing! Nothing makes you feel more alive or more positive and energised than dancing. And its not just the obvious physical
benefits either. Dancing has been shown to be one of the most powerful forms of exercise for the brain too. It's true, frequent dancing makes you smarter and dancing can help
prevent Alzheimer's and dementia. Need the proof? click this link to the original research in the New England Journal of Medicine
This study looked at cognitive activities such as cross-words, reading books, playing an instrument or just playing card games. They also examined physical activities including tennis, cycling, golf, swimming, dancing and walking.
Percentage reduced risk of dementia
Crosswords - 47% The only physical activity to
Reading - 35% protect against dementia was
Golf, cycling or swimming - 0% DANCING.
Dancing - 76%.
So now we know that dancing is great for the body and the mind. But if your a dancer then you probably knew that already!! That's why there is nothing more frustrating than an injury that stops you in your tracks. Following some simple rules will help you to stay injury-free and speed up the rate of recovery when those injuries do happen.
Put On Those Dancing Shoes!
The strains put on the body by dancing are considerable. Give your body the best chance of coping with them by choosing the right footgear for your activity. Think about exactly what you are going to do and how long you are going to do it for. You need to also think about the surface you are dancing on. Barefoot can look great and help add expression to your dance. It can also be good for the foot, giving it freedom to conform to the surfaces it contacts without the restriction of footwear. On the other hand, if the surface you are on is unforgiving then this can put undue stresses on the soft tissues of the foot. Prolonged dancing on non-sprung surfaces can also lead to bone bruising and even stress fractures.
Dance pumps, while helping the foot to look great in point etc, do very little to protect the foot and often compromise foot health by cramping the movement of the soft tissues and crushing the foot into a very confined space. If you need to wear pumps, try to allow the foot as much room as you can. If they are not essential for your training sessions then consider dance trainers instead. Dance trainers offer much more protection and help keep the foot safe but can obviously compromise your dance form.
Ballroom shoes will allow you to glide effortlessly across the dance floor, reducing the chances of rotational or "sticking" injuries. If you are new to ballroom or Latin dancing then ballroom shoes are a must. They don't offer much in the way of shock absorption though, so don't be tempted to use them for any other kind of dance.
Whatever your activity, its always a good idea to prepare your body for what's ahead. Rather than just going through a routine of stretches or exercises, think about what you are going to ask your body to perform and mimic these movements in a less stressful way. So run through your dance moves rather than just stretch. Some people perform better with little or no warm-up, others benefit from a prolonged preperation. Get to know your own body and experiment with what works best for you - there is no one warm-up for everyone.
When Injuries Occur they come in two ways - sudden acute injuries and insidious chronic injuries that build up over time. For Chronic injuries follow this link. For Acute injuries that happen while you are dancing, follow either the RICE method for muscle injuries or the MEAT method for tendons and ligaments. Both methods are detailed below;
R - rest - Stop all activity immediately. Rest is a key component of the body's repair process. Without rest, damaged structures deteriorate further leading to increased inflammation, pain, and further injury. Soft tissue injuries take considerably longer to heal and may undergo abnormal repair without sufficient rest. Total rest from all activity should be the starting point of recovery from any soft tissue injury. As you are better able to weight-bear and the affected joints begin to move freely and correctly, then you can begin a slow, graded return to normal activity.
I - ice - Ice is great at easing pain and reducing inflammation. Apply ice to the injured area for 20 minutes in every hour for up to 48 hours post injury. Be careful not to give yourself an ice burn by applying something too cold for too long. If you are using something directly from your freezer then you should wrap it in a tea-towel before applying it to your skin.
C - compression - Although some swelling is inevitable and even desirable, too much swelling can lead to an increase in your pain and a significant restriction in your mobility. Prolonged excessive swelling can also cause slowing of blood flow which can dramatically delay healing. Apply an elastic bandage to the area. make sure it is snug enough to provide support and limit but not totally arrest swelling. Do not be tempted to use medical tape such as Zinc oxide as these do not allow for any expansion and could limit or stop the supply of blood to the area altogether.
E - elevation - keeping the injured limb elevated above your waist height will help to reduce the swelling and collection of fluids associated with injury. It will also help with veinous return, helping to ensure a good blood-flow to the injury. Elevation also allows the injured structures time to heal without being put under pressure from weight-bearing.
TENDONS & LIGAMENTS
M - movement controlled movement of the injured limb can stimulate blood flow, reduce the formation of scar tissue, and speed up recovery. This is shown by Kerkhoffs et al. 2002 who demonstrated improved recovery in patients with ankle sprains treated with movement rather than immobilisation. So keep it moving as much as possible.
E - exercise this refers to prescribed exercises given by your podiatrist, rather than just movement as described above or exercise in a more genral sense. Bleakley et al (2010) showed that the addition of ankle AROM, strength and sensorimotor exercises to standard treatments improved function and weight-bearing in patients following acute ankle sprain.
A - analgesics can be used for pain control but it is better NOT TO USE ANTI-INFLAMMATORIES. These can inhibit the normal healing process.
T - treatment these injuries often require specialist intervention before returning to competition. You should work closely with your podiatrist to ensure a full and timely recovery. Follow your given exercise program closely and communicate any changes in your condition quickly.
Returning to dancing after injury can be an unnerving experience. There are often a lot of concerns about recurrence of the injury and loss of aerobic fitness, mixed with a frustration and desire to return to activity and competition as soon as possible. It is vital at this stage that you manage your return to activity cautiously and patiently. The most common reason for recurring injury amongst the dancers I treat is too rapid an increase in the intensity of their workouts. Take a slowly-but-surely approach and build the intensity week on week, rather than day by day. Generally I would suggest starting with a half hour session which you should do at no more than half your usual intensity. This should be increased each week by half an hour. Once you are back training at your normal duration, then you should begin to increase the intensity of your sessions. If at any time during this staged return to activity, you feel a relapse in your condition or you experience any pain at the injury site, you should make a visit to the clinic before continuing with your program.