The Secret to Preventing Dance-Related Knee Pain
How many times have you seen dancers with knee pain? It’s not uncommon to hear of dancers suffering from some kind of injury that keeps them sidelined for days, weeks, or even months at a time. One of the most common dance related injuries is knee pain, which can be caused by wear and tear on the ligaments surrounding the knee joint, overuse injuries like tendonitis, poor alignment of the tibia and femur bones, or simply through improper technique or form when performing dance movements like leaps and jumps.
How Dance Can Aggravate Knee Pain
The knees are subjected to significant pressure when dancing, especially when turning, jumping and landing. Even those with perfectly healthy joints can be affected by dance-related knee pain if they aren’t careful. Dancers who already have existing knee conditions should take extra precautions when participating in activities that may aggravate their injury or lead to further damage.
Common Knee Injuries Affecting Dancers
One of the most common type of knee injury for dancers is often one that many people can relate to: patellofemoral pain syndrome, or PFPS. PFPS is more common in females, and in athletes. Symptoms include pain in the front of the knee caused by inflammation of cartilage beneath your kneecap. Common causes of PFPS in dancers include overuse, muscle tightness, and muscle weakness, especially with poor tracking on the kneecap. When combined with poor posture, dancing on very hard surfaces, or plus wearing shoes with high heels or little support - patellofemoral pain syndrome can be triggered quickly.
Other sources of dancer-related knee pain include sprains and fractures. In rare cases, a torn meniscus or ligament like the ACL can also cause severe issues for dancers - and if you have either one, your dance healthcare providers may suggest reducing or avoiding dancing in the early stages of healing. It's crucial for all dancers to address any underlying causes of knee pain before they progress into a more serious condition that could threaten their dance career. Knee pain is manageable with physical therapy and changes in technique, and should be addressed as early as possible.
How to avoid Knee Pain with Dance
All dancers should give themselves a break from vigorous exercise at least once a week to allow their muscles time to rest. They also need to warm up thoroughly before performing any strenuous physical activity to help reduce the risk of injury. Including strengthening exercises, particularly for the gluteal muscles, into your workout routine can help protect you against knee injuries while improving your strength and flexibility. Proper hydration helps lubricate our joints for improved health, which, in turn, lessens discomfort related to dancing - particularly beneficial if you have a history of problems with knee injury or soreness. Other considerations include wearing properly fitting footwear when participating in dance activities, and making sure to use very good technique, especially for jumping and landing.
What to Do If You Are Experiencing Pain with Dance
A proper warm up and cool down routine is essential in helping your body to transition into and out of dancing. Taking breaks with long days of class and rehearsal is important, and don’t underestimate your body’s need for rest between practice sessions. It takes 12-14 hours for your body to recover from strenuous activity, so to feel your best, avoid doing intensive workouts back to back.
It is important to listen carefully to what your body tells you, and take steps early on if something doesn't feel quite right. If you experience knee pain during dance practices or performances that lasts more than a week without getting better, consult a dance Physical Therapist or other dance medicine professional who can assess your movements and assist you with performing exercises that suit your individual needs. By using these strategies, you can help yourself avoid worsening knee pain and injuries while enjoying your best dancing life!