As a studio owner or dance teacher, it’s important that your dancers understand the difference between being sore and being in pain; if what they are feeling is something that is okay to “push through” or needs to be rested. Many dancers who have never faced an injury, or who may be facing their first injury, simply do not understand the difference between these two sensations.
Muscle soreness is very common in dancers and acrobats, because we do so much eccentric work (ie. lengthening muscles while they are being fired). You will know you have muscle soreness if:
- Your muscles feel tired while exercising, and tight and achy at rest.
- Discomfort only lasts for 24-72 hours, and is only in your muscles.
- The feeling improves after a warm-up and stretch, and gets worse when you rest/are sitting still.
On the other hand, you will know that what you are feeling is true pain if:
- You feel a sharp sensation in both your muscles and your joints.
- Discomfort occurs during at rest and during exercise OR the sharp feeling lingers at rest without fully going away.
If what you’re feeling is muscle soreness, you do not need to stop your training. But you do need to ensure you include warm-ups (that raise your heart rate before class) and cool downs (that lower your heart rate slowly after class) into your training. In fact, the sooner you get moving, the sooner the soreness will subside.
If what you’re feeling is pain, remember the “R.I.C.E” mnemonic, introduced by Gabe Mirkin in 1978. Pain should be treated with:
- R: Rest
- I: Ice
- C: Compression
- E: Elevation
If the pain persists, you should see a medical professional in order to avoid a full-blown injury that could take months to heal fully.
If you find yourself feeling pain regularly, a physiotherapist can perform an assessment on your body to see what the problem is stemming from. Regular massages may be required, or a few simple daily physiotherapy exercises for a few weeks may be all you need to get you back on track and avoid a serious injury. The ADTA’s Set Strength and Flexibility Warm-ups contain physiotherapy-based exercises designed to keep bodies functional and prevent future injuries.
Remember, you need a healthy body for your whole life, not just for this dance season! So train smart, warm up and cool down to avoid intense soreness, and back off from training if you feel pain!