From the October 2020 Issue. Read the rest of the issue here.
Dancers are even more susceptible to injuries with our newly technologically-heavy lifestyles. Workplaces, schools, and even dance studios are turning to remote alternatives and contributing to a more sedentary lifestyle. Sitting more brings heavier muscle firing of our hip flexors, and almost no gluteal activation. This is dangerous for the average person, let alone the average dancer, and can lead to a condition called Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT), a condition present in an estimated 75% of men, and 85% of women.
APT is a condition where the top of the pelvis tilts forward, and the bottom tilts backward. It is one of the leading causes of lower back pain, and can lead to career-ending injuries such as labral hip tears. Labral hip tears result from the pelvis being out of alignment; this results in damage and stress to the labrum from muscular imbalances. While labral tears can heal on their own, severe tears can result in surgery. It’s incredibly important that dancers know how to train themselves and others to support proper pelvic posture and muscle development. Here are some recommendations to prevent such injuries:
More Gluteal Activation!
This is incredibly important to ensure our hip flexors aren’t overburdened with demanding movements. One can encourage gluteal activation by adding proper bridge workouts into their strength and conditioning routines. Hip flexors should not fire at all during the bridge. Place your fingers on your hip flexors to see if they fire during your bridges. You should be able to do a bridge strictly with your glutes, so if the hip flexors are tense, it can mean that you depend too much on them. Proper bridge exercises will help strengthen the muscles necessary to prevent injury. These exercises will stabilize your core, pull the top of your hips back into place and ensure the proper muscles are firing during movement.
Rest and Recovery
It’s not uncommon for dancers to rehearse for hours every day. If you can’t accommodate an appropriate rest period, you must take extra steps to ensure proper recovery techniques. Dancers who are fatigued often start depending on other muscles (the wrong muscles) to move. Overuse injuries are extremely common in dancers, but also entirely avoidable. If a dancer has APT and pushes through a rehearsal, they can end up with a labral tear.
When we’re seated, our hip flexors aren’t stretched. This can create muscular imbalances. This can lead muscles to fire improperly when we dance. Stretches are extremely important to ensure proper hip placement, but also proper movement of muscles in and around the hips that influence leg and back movement. Gluteal activation, when combined with stretching, often lessens or even eliminates lower back pain and ensures your hips aren’t being pulled in the wrong direction.
Recovery techniques can include icing and heat, compression and massage to encourage blood flow (I wear Apolla compression socks during and after activity), and what is likely most important, an anti-inflammatory diet.
Inflammatory Foods are:
Those high in added sugar (cakes, soda, candy, and oftentimes cereals)
Loaded with artificial trans fats (fried foods like fast food/french fries, margarines, vegetable shortening, cookies, many processed foods)
Those containing vegetable and seed oils (cooking oils, used in most processed foods)
Anything with refined carbohydrates (candy, most bread/pastas with added or bleached flour, cereals, cookies, cakes, soda)
Processed and red meat, and dairy products (side note – meat is actually not a great source of protein, despite popular belief)
Anti-inflammatory Foods for Recovery:
Olive oil (in small amounts)
Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, arugula)
Nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
Fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines)
Fruits (berries, cherries, oranges, apples)
We must monitor our body placement when in motion and at rest. Love our bodies by feeding them the nutrients they need to heal, and knowing when we need time or treatment to prevent injuries that can be easily avoided. Ensuring our bodies have time to rest and recover properly will ensure we don’t develop any inappropriate muscle imbalances. Happy dancing!