Dancers and performers often sustain injuries that are unique to their field. Dance physiotherapy is a field of physical therapy that caters primarily to the dance world. The physical therapist will typically have a special interest in dance which allows him to be more in tune to the performer’s specific needs, and so help to speed his or her recovery. Performers such as acrobats and gymnasts are also candidates for dance physiotherapy. Physical therapists will typically advise performers on how to avoid further injury as well as work with them on building strength, flexibility and proper warm up techniques.
Physiotherapy works to help people with physical injuries or pain by using an holistic, or natural approach to deal with their discomfort. By using exercise, manual manipulation and electrical stimulation of the muscles, physiotherapy deals with diagnosing, treatment and prevention. In the same way, dance physiotherapy also seeks to ultimately improve the dancer’s performance and life through physical therapy. Dance therapy is usually administered by a licensed physical therapist. To become a licensed practitioner usually takes up to three years and requires that the candidate obtain a graduate degree.
During a dance physiotherapy session, a trained physical therapist will assess dancers for strength and the potential for injury prior to actually dancing. Part of the full body assessment can include foot control, leg turnout, and whether or not the dancer has the ability to dance en pointe. This is when the dancer performs in special dance shoes up on the tips of his or her toes. This screening process clearly has the potential to prevent injuries that may be just a dance step away.
Ballet and dance companies will often have a dance physiotherapy program and physical therapist in house, especially during shows. The therapist will sometimes combine traditional therapy, such as stretching exercises and improving motor control, with other techniques like Pilates. This is a system of exercises designed to strengthen the body as well as the mind.
Many dance therapists have been dancers themselves at one point or another. This uniquely qualifies them to understand the level of pain and discomfort that the performer is experiencing. Some of the most common injuries that are treated during dance physiotherapy are sprains or strains to the ankles, knees and back. These can be serious injuries and can often end a dancer’s career. Dance physiotherapy then becomes a crucial therapy for the performer facing what could be the end of a dream.