Let’s Change How We Speak to Dancers About Injury Prevention

Let’s Change How We Speak to Dancers About Injury Prevention

I’ll start by stating the obvious: Dancers get injured. A lot.

Studies show us that the injury rate in dance is similar to that of collision sports and, while each study presents a different statistic, the injury rate is often somewhere between 60-100%.

Not to mention that you can’t completely rely on studies that include self-reported data, because many dancers don’t report getting injured.

THIS study, outlined in Science Daily says:

injury rate for ballet dancers over an eight-month period was 61 percent. This is comparable to rates found in other studies for athletes in collision sports such as football and wrestling. The average time lost because of a ballet injury was 10.5 days, with the actual time loss ranging from one to 87 days.

In THIS study, the injury incidence in professional Irish dancers was shown to be 76%.

And in THIS study of young ballet dance students, of the 476 students in being observed, 438 injuries were recorded. The injury incidence rate was 0.8 per 1,000 dance hours.

If you dance, you will get hurt.

Am I scaring you? I’m only doing it to make a point. How does hearing these statistics make you feel? Are you inspired now to go out and take care of your joints? Or are you paralyzed, discouraged, and unsure what to do about it?

That’s my point. Scary stats aren’t enough to inspire action. Telling dancers they need strategies to prevent injuries doesn’t count as guidance. One-off injury prevention workshops don’t give long-term support that dancers need.

THIS study done in the UK looked at dancers’ perspectives towards injuries and pain, and one conclusion was:

Dance injury rates do not appear to be decreasing significantly, despite greater awareness and the promotion of the “healthier dancer” in dance training schools, universities and among professionals in the UK.

The way we’re presenting injury prevention to dancers is not effective enough.

There’s enough research supporting cross-training to make it mainstream, yet even the dancers who cross-train get injured.

And fear mongering, kind of like I’m doing now (it’s only to make a point!), isn’t an effective means of getting dancers interested in preventing injuries, it only makes them focus on their fears.

Is it really helpful to focus on pain? To be told that you will get hurt if you don’t do x-y-z? Has being scared into trying to prevent injuries ever really inspired you?

Michael Mullin’s Facebook page is always full of gems like this one below, which I’ve been making a conscious effort more recently to be aware of in my own practice:

michael mullin FB quote

Pain science shows us that focusing on pain only draws our attention to it more, making it more pronounced and threatening in our minds. The more we fear pain, the more we try to stiffen ourselves to prevent feeling it, and the more we alter our movement patterns in compensatory ways that can cause even higher risk of injury.

Please watch this TED talk by Lorimer Mosely, author of Explain Pain, which summarizes nicely why things hurt (and read his book, too):

What if we stopped focusing on pain and injuries?

And what if we stopped putting the onus on the dancer to change they way they do things, and instead, change how WE work with dancers.

It’s a mistake to keep telling our students the same things over and over expecting them to change, while we ourselves refuse to adapt to their situation. We don’t study dance science for our own personal gain after-all, it’s to help the dancers. Isn’t it?

Our language needs to change.

What if, instead of naming programs as “injury prevention screens” we called them “performance optimization screens?” They are the exact same program only with a different name.

What if instead of saying “don’t do this or you will become injured!”, we said, “If you try to do things this way instead, you will be creating better patterns of moving that will help you perform better and stronger”.

Subconsciously we react differently to hearing words like pain, injuries, don’t, not, and bad. Over time, constantly hearing these words can start to change the way we feel about ourselves, and limits our potential.

Take the emphasis off the threat. Let dancers focus on their love of dance.

aaron swanson PT quote

Does inducing fear help reduce pain in the same way that encouraging dancers to experience gratitude does?

Consider that you’re trying to motivate a dance student, or yourself for that matter, to start a cross-training or therapeutic exercise program. How would you word it to them?

Would you a) Attempt to instill a fear of spraining an ankle if you don’t do it, or b) Express how  the exercises will make you stronger and better at dancing.

I think it’s obvious.

Changing your language, both to yourself and to others, is a challenge. It requires that you are completely aware of every word coming out of your mouth. This seems unrealistic but it is possible, and this subtle switch can make a massive difference, and is 100% worth the effort, with zero cost.

I have made this switch myself, and it drove me crazy when I realized how my words could be sending the wrong subconscious message to my clients, and to myself, despite my best intentions.

They say you become what you focus on. I know this to be true.

When I was recovering from an eating disorder, the hardest part was trying to teach myself how to eat again in “normal” portion sizes, without becoming completely obsessive about it. I’m sure if you’ve been through one yourself you can relate to the challenges of acclimating back to being a regular person who eats regularly.

Food was on my mind constantly. When would I eat next? How much would I eat? What would I eat? How many calories? How many carbs? How much protein? Did I deserve to eat that many carbs? Should I go exercise before or after eating? Is that too many calories or not enough? And then how many hours should I wait until I eat my next meal? What should I have for my next meal? Should I just skip eating today altogether??

When I reflect back on the hours wasted and the mental energy spent every day just thinking about food, it’s no wonder I was always exhausted and injured.

It wasn’t until I finally decided to stop thinking about food that I was able to eat like a “regular” person again. Canada is not a third world country. There is ample food here. I had no need to worry for hours each day about where my next meal would come from.

When it comes to injuries, constantly obsessing about them and their prevention is counterproductive in a similar way that my food planning obsession was. It’s a waste of mental energy that can be used more productively.

Don’t get me wrong, we need people to think about injury prevention, but it’s not the dancers who should be worried. It’s us- The scientists, the physiotherapists, the trainers, teachers, parents, and doctors to think about these things, maybe even worry about them a little, but only so that the dancers don’t have to.

Let the dancers worry about dancing, and we, the dance educators can carry the burden of their injuries. Because we’re geeks and we’re into it, and our bodies aren’t the ones on the line.

We, the educators, trainers, and therapists, need to learn all we can about prevention, but not only prevention- We also need to learn how to communicate this information to dancers in a way that doesn’t make them afraid, but empowers them to become stronger. Because the fear and obsession tactics don’t work.

In my first year at Ryerson University I remember that we were asked what our biggest fears were, as dancers. Our response? A unanimous fear of becoming hurt and no longer being able to dance.

What causes this fear of injuries?

You’re afraid of injuries because you don’t know enough about how your body works to be able to heal yourself without an entire team of specialists (which you can’t afford).

Injuries are scary because of the time off you don’t want to take, for which you will have nothing else to fill it with, because dance is all you know.

You’re afraid to become hurt less because of physical pain, and more because you tempt losing a piece of your identity.

You don’t want to think about the fact that you can’t afford rehabilitation fees.

And you’re afraid of injuries because you perceive that teachers will judge you as inferior for becoming hurt (“if your technique was better this wouldn’t have happened to you!”).

So you push these fears to a dark corner in your mind so that you can dance without limits. When you’re not injured you feel invincible, and it feels good to dance like you’re invincible. The best dancers to watch must be the ones who feel invincible because they don’t hold anything back.

You don’t need the constant reminders that you will get hurt, you need goals for performance, a well designed strength training program that is actually fun to do and that helps you feel immediate reward so that you’ll want to keep doing it. You need to be educated on how your body works so you can enjoy using it and, by understanding your limits, you can respect them.

What I feel is lacking for most dancers, unless part of a professional ballet company, is a safety net that has your back when you do get injured. Because injuries will happen. We as educators know that we can help dancers to get injured less often, but it still happens.

By safety net I mean a system that ensures that a dancer doesn’t need to be afraid of becoming injured, because they will have access to the support they need financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally in that situation.

It’s not the dancer that needs to change, it’s you and I. How we educate, train, and make ourselves a part of a dancers’ rehab process. We need to change the system rather than expect the dancers to fit into the one that currently exists, and often fails them.

Anyone who has become injured knows that it doesn’t just hurt the physical body, but it can trigger deep depression and cataclysmic feelings of low self-worth. You feel like you’re losing your identity when you lose your ability, if not only temporarily, to dance.

I am fortunate to live in Canada and that my father works for the government.

Had to insert a Justin Trudeau pic in here somewhere

While I was in school, I was covered under his benefits and could get my physio fees reimbursed through his insurance policy. Physio which, by the way, was not effective because I had no idea how to choose a therapist that would fit my needs.

Despite this accessibility, my rehabilitation experience was not good and, eventually I maxed out my parents’ coverage to the point that I stopped going because I could not afford it anymore. I even paid for treatments out of my own pocket that were ineffective.

I felt bad about myself for not getting better. I felt judged by my teachers and felt the pity of my peers. I felt guilty that I had used all of my parents’ insurance coverage and still could not dance.

It could have been much different if a system was in place to help. If I didn’t have to make decisions alone that I knew nothing about. I was alone and ignorant. Alone, even though I’m sure every dancer in my class had gone through a similar struggle.

At the IADMS conference this past October, I distinctly remember one presentation showing us evidence that insufficient coping skills was one of the top reasons dancers get injured. I can relate.

Most of us don’t have a support system unless we go out and create one for ourselves. We all have the right to a safety net. An incredibly supportive, effective, affordable network.

What if each dance program/school had a network that consisted of a rehabilitation team, a strength and conditioning team, and a therapist.

Welcome to my perfect world where:

1. Each dance school/program has a built in a budget for student rehabilitation. This budgeted amount is established knowing that dancers will get hurt- Not if, but when. This  allows dancers to receive a certain minimum amount of treatment for their injuries, and a subsidized rate beyond that amount, so that they can focus on their dancing without fear.

2. Strength and conditioning is a mandatory part of the curriculum. Not a bootcamp, Barre fitness style class, but a sensible, periodized, dance-specific program taught by a competent coach who would have as much a role in education as supervising exercise,  empowering dancers to become their best while feeling good about themselves and their abilities.

3. The dance program has it’s own  team of rehabilitation specialists. They observe dance classes, communicate with the other teachers and faculty, and, most importantly, aren’t only into making money with fancy treatments and passive therapies. Did you know that some physios can make hundreds of dollars by prescribing an injection that takes them 5 minutes to administer? Makes it pretty tempting to do this than work long-term with a patient to teach them how they came to be injured.

4. Dance teachers are educated on how to speak and interact with their students.  They are taught to avoid negative language and help them adopt a growth mindset, set goals, and raise their self-worth rather than make them feel bad about their abilities.

Imagine how reassuring it would be to dance at a school that had this kind of support system. The dancers in this program would thrive knowing that if their worst fears came true, they wouldn’t have to deal with it alone. It would allow them to dance with more confidence, not subjected to inappropriate language and fear mongering with no talk of solutions.

I write this because a dancer I know has been going through some hard times in his last year university and a system like this could have prevented his current situation, as well as that of many dancers.

Meet Michael.

I “met” Michael via email (probably chatting initially about deadlifts and hamstring injuries, two things we have in common).

Despite his best intentions, desire to learn how to take care of his body, and love of strength training, he became badly injured and has now accumulated thousands of dollars in medical bills he can’t afford to pay, and is still trying to get back on his feet.

Michael’s not an idiot. He’s way smarter than I was at his age.

Michael didn’t do anything wrong. He only wanted to work hard and succeed at something he loves, but he didn’t have the support and education he needed to overcome his injuries.

When his physiotherapy program was not helping him improve adequately, he didn’t know whether he should call it quits and find someone new, because that isn’t taught in school.

When he was cleared to go back to dance, still in pain, he was not educated on how to know when to rest, something we all need an education in.

He loves strength training and knows it’s good for him to do, but like most students, he wan not able to afford supervision and a customized program that would have ensured his cross-training was helping him, not just grinding him into the dirt (unlike other collegiate athletics programs which almost always include strength and conditioning training).

Michael didn’t get adequate recovery because he felt guilty about resting, and felt judged for sitting out. He didn’t have a better plan so he pushed through his injuries to perform in a show which, by the end, found him unable to walk without pain.

While he will probably look back a few years from now and see his situation so clearly, it’s not so easy to make the right choices when your life is ruled by judgement, competition, and pressure to succeed, with little support.

Michael needed a system.

He needed better quality physio that insisted upon adequate recovery, guidance for his cross-training, financial aid, compassion from his teachers,  and to be re-assured that  he would have a  smooth transition back into dance if he followed their advice.

Image result for dance injuries

He needed a trustworthy system with this kind of incredible communication between rehab, cross-training, and teaching, with the budget to support him so he didn’t have the financial burden at the forefront of his mind.

Of course there are some challenges this model poses.

The big one: Money. Where does this budget to subsidize rehab, training, and education come from?

Another biggie: Time. Convincing the head of a dance program that it is necessary to make time for screening and strength and conditioning in the already packed curriculum isn’t an easy sell.

This system is my dream. Just give me 10 years and I’ll make it happen ;).

How is Michael now coping with his situation? He’s started a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay for his medical expenses and get back to dancing. It takes courage to put oneself out there and ask for money. I certainly would rather have given up completely than ask for help.

But Michael shouldn’t have to be asking for money. Dance students should not have to reach out to their friends and strangers on the internet because they can’t afford physical therapy. That said, this is Michael’s reality, and if you’d like to help him out, please contribute to his campaign. Better yet, reach out to UC Irvine where he studies and ask them to consider creating a better support system for their dance students.

Michael has been inspired by his situation to start a charity that would support dancers through times of need like his. For now, his Go Fund Me campaign is his charity, and if he meets his fundraising goal, he also hopes to donate to a charity that does something similar to support dancers. Please help him out, and share this post.

And if you are aware or organizations that support dancers, please let me (and Michael) know about them. Many of us are not aware what resources are available to us, so post them in the comments below.

What do you think? Am I too idealistic? (I for sure am, but I’m not changing). Can you relate to Michael’s experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

And yes, realize that I used a lot of negative verbiage in this post, but it was mostly to make a point!

 

 

 

 

5 Characteristics of a Great Rehabilitation Specialist

5 Characteristics of a Great Rehabilitation Specialist

There is a rather large list topics that I wish dancers were formally taught in the studio as supplementary workshops.

And FYI, if you’re a dance student at York University in Toronto, I will be coming at you with a free workshop series (starting in November), including exciting topics such as Making Breathing Sexy, Core Training Badassery, Developing Hip Mobility and Turnout Like a Boss, and, How to Warm-Up Like Jean Claude Van Damme. You don’t want to miss this workshop series.

Remember your training JC!!

In my dance career, workshops at our studio were limited mostly to applying stage make-up, pointe-shoe-tying, and how to audition. All very important things, but what good is knowing how to tie your pointe shoes if you you don’t have ankles to tie them to?

Which leads me to todays’ topic: Something I wish was taught on the FIRST DAY of every new dance training season…

How to choose a rehabilitative therapist that will actually help you.

I’m writing this from the IADMS conference in Pittsburgh, and I feel fortunate to be able to discuss topics like this with other incredible professionals in the fields of dance medicine and science.

As dance educators and professionals supporting dance wellness it’s important to recognize that we’re not going to be able to absolutely prevent injuries 100% of the time through out work and research, but we’re doing our dang best to minimize damage while optimizing performance.

Considering the (reported) injury rate in dance is between 80 and 100%, be aware that if you are a dancer (or even just dance for fun) you probably will get hurt at some point and you should absolutely know how to choose someone trustworthy to help you through those inevitable periods of injury and pain.

danceinjurystudy4 danceinjurystudy3 danceinjurystudy2 Knowing this, I recommend you make friends with a rehabilitative therapist (which I will refer to as therapists from here on in) such as a chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist, movement coach etc.

I have personally had terrible experiences with therapists “back in the day” and I’ve worked with too many clients who have also worked with ineffective therapists. Sometimes this is how people find me- They’ve lost faith in the rehabilitation industry as a whole and are looking for exercise-based methods to reclaim their bodies.

This theme again showed up in the Facebook forum for the new trial version of the Dance Stronger program.

Here’s what one DS member asked:

My question is about finding someone to work with to do that, after I resolve my [pelvic floor] issues. I’ve read about studies where they compared various people who do posture correction work and none of them came up with the same diagnosis or treatment plan for a given person. I’ve also had personal experience with being told things by one practitioner that subsequent practitioners questioned, and also with practitioners who were stuck on one treatment approach even when things clearly weren’t improving. But they always seem so sure of themselves, it can be difficult and even seem arrogant to think that I know better than they do.

So what is the savvy healthcare consumer to do? Even people who come highly recommended can be the wrong choice. How do you know when “give it more time” and “spend more time on this at home” have worn out their welcome? Let alone sussing out whether the recommended approach has any merit at all; anatomical cause and effect isn’t always as obvious and logical as we think.

Getting second, third and fourth opinions can help, but in this country health insurance is always an issue and mine doesn’t cover anything “alternative” whatsoever. So getting enough care without can be difficult due to cost, and the more I can do it with traditional doctors and physical therapists who are included in my insurance coverage, the better.

If there are any strategies for finding really competent and compatible practitioners, I’m all ears (or eyes in this case).

Can I get a hell yes! I can relate. I know a lot of you can, too.

There are so many amazing practitioners out there waiting for you, but yet we still flip flop from therapist to therapist who rarely will agree on the cause on injury and treatment strategy, which can be very frustrating, consuming time and money you don’t have.

First, my own story (because this blog is all about Monika! Me me me!):

For years I kept going back to the same physio/chiro/massage therapist (yes he was all three) for my multiple lower-back and hamstring injuries. I chose him because his was the clinic I always walked by on the way to school. I didn’t do my research, I chose him because he was convenient.

Guess what- My injuries didn’t ever feel better. But I kept coming back to him anyway because I didn’t know better.

I didn’t know anything about what made a clinician good or bad, I didn’t know how quickly I should be recovering to gauge whether my progress was reasonable, and I didn’t know what a sensible treatment strategy was. But because he was such a nice guy, I trusted him to fix me.

I perceived all his specialties to be a good thing, and it wasn’t until later that I wondered “why he didn’t just focus on one thing, and do that one thing really well?” I should have known to look for a new therapist when, after asking what exercises I should be doing, he said, “You don’t need to do anything, just keep coming back”. Hindsight…

Dr. PT RMT would massage me, ultrasound me, put me in the traction machine, use the electrostim machine that made me giggle uncontrollably, all the modalities. But when I asked for exercises to help me strengthen my back, I got nothing.

He never tried to help me move better. He never tried to help me prevent future injuries. He didn’t give me any reassurance or guidelines for my return to safe dancing. But because he was a nice guy, I trusted him to fix me, and he let me down. It saddens me to see this still happens to dancers all the time. And we don’t know better!

I should have asked more questions. I should have gone to get a second opinion. And I definitely should not have assumed that just because I was in rehab that things were getting better, or that one round of physio will fix the issue forever.

Consider this conversation I had with a dance student in a class I was teaching:

Dancer: “My knees are both screwed up so I can’t do this exercise”
Me: “I would probably recommend you go see someone about that, I can give you a good referral.”
Dancer: “Oh it’s OK, I went to physio ages ago and I have exercises”.
Me: “… do you do them?”
Dancer: “No, but I don’t think my knees will ever get better so I just deal with it”

It’s like for some reason we think that just going once, to one therapist will cure us, and if it doesn’t that we have to accept that we must live with our pain forever.

Silliness!!

If your therapist isn’t helping you get better, go find someone else. And there is no guaranteed time frame for recovery from any injury, so please do not assume that if things aren’t getting better after a month that you are doomed for life. It is very important to take ownership of your role in the rehabilitation process. You are not doomed to always be in pain unless you allow yourself to be.

And just how do you recognize the qualities that make a good therapist? It’s not just about the certifications, degrees, and fancy anatomy talk. Just what are these mysterious qualities?

The top 5 characteristics I would look for in a rehab specialist are:

1) Movement based approach

2) Absence of ego

3) Compassion

4) Detective spirit

5) Interest in education

Knowledge is very important, and, of course, my favourite therapists to refer my clients to are incredibly smart; but, they also have my three other criteria, without which I would glance over their long list of credentials.

I also feel it is important to have a therapist who works with movement, not just passive modalities that require you to lie still for the entire session. Therapists should be able to admit to not being all-knowing. They should be curious enough to ask if you’re open to some safe and sane experimentation.

A practitioner should be willing to refer you to someone else who can help you better than they can when necessary, and they should communicate with that person to make sure you get the best treatment. A good therapist lastly should ask you lots of questions to make sure they understand your full history.

An effective therapist will be as interested in educating you as they are in treating you. You will want to look for a therapist that is also a good role model who practices what they preach. A compassionate therapist doesn’t make you feel bad about yourself, but gives you hope and empowers you.

Does your therapist give you homework and outcome measures to help keep you progressing? Do they make sure you fully understand your homework exercise and watch you do it before you leave? Do they have an efficient assessment protocol that looks not just at joint structure and passive range of motion, but active movement that is normally done in your life’s routine? Do they watch you walk, squat, lunge, twist and bend?

An honest therapist gives you realistic advice. They don’t promise that thirty minutes in the traction machine, three times a week, will cure you, or that you just need to keep coming back for an adjustment every week for the rest of your life.

A good therapist will guide you in your healing journey but also help you understand that YOU are responsible for healing yourself. They will remind you that rehabilitation is hard work and it is impossible to predict how swiftly you will recover. However, it is entirely possible that recovery will be quicker than you think.

You may have found yourself in the frustrating situation of hopping from therapist to therapist, each with their own opinion and “fix”, but still you get nowhere. For this reason, I think it is crucial that you find not just one therapist, but a network of them that see each other regularly, refer patients to each other, and you know are always working to continue their education.

When you choose to enter a network of therapists that all operate on the same principles and share a “detective” mindset, who communicate and refer to each other openly, you know that you’re going to come out with more solutions than questions.

These are the networks I would look into when choosing a practitioner (based on the results I have personally had, and those of my clients, colleagues, teachers, and friends):

But remember that despite the reputation of a network, not everyone will be brilliant, so do your research and interview your potential therapist. Make sure that their expertise matches your needs.

If you’re hypermobile and deal with chronic injuries due to spinal instability, for example, you probably don’t want to work with a massage therapist with no skills in strength or movement training. If your joints are already loose, you don’t need more muscle release- You need to learn how to use your muscles!

What have your experiences been with rehabilitation? Who was your favourite practitioner? What was the worst experience you had? Share in the comments below and tell other readers who you’d recommend in your area to spread the love.

 

The Problem With Physiotherapy

The Problem With Physiotherapy

I’ve gone to physio many, many times. Throw some chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture into the mix too. I just had an impromptu ART session yesterday! One of the perks of working at a gym with multi-disciplined trainers.

I’ve had a lot of dance-related (and non dance-related) injuries. Too many. I don’t even want to talk about it.

Actually, yes I do. But more for your sake than for mine. As much as I love talking about myself. Just kidding… I’m actually pretty boring in real life.

When I was 14 (or 15?) I first went to physio for low back pain. Like many dancers,  this is age when the aches and pains begin, and most often it’s the lower back that is the first to go.

At that age, my back pain didn’t really worry me too much, and I didn’t let it slow me down.  I also remember at the age of 15 (while studying at the Banff Center’s summer program), that I couldn’t walk without significant pain in my right hip unless I turned my right foot out to about 45 degrees. And that was ok with me.

I even remember my parents saying something like, “Oh that’s not good, Monika, we should really take you to get that looked at.” To which I replied, “No it’s fine as long as I walk like this!”.  Zombie stylez.

Doh…

This is the mindset of too many dancers. Pain is the expectation. Especially the young dancers who don’t necessarily understand what’s happening inside their bodies. At that age there are too many other things to worry about, like, OMG did you know that Gretta wears a thong?? I totally saw it the other day. I know, right!!?!!? What a sl^#*… I mean…

But in all seriousness, when I was 14, I could have cared less about the impending doom stemming from my unchecked injuries. Many people don’t even know how to differentiate between “good pain”, and “bad pain” until it’s too late.

Anyhoo, so when I was 14 I went to physio for my back, and was given a few exercises and stretches that I’m sure would have helped me a lot. If I actually did them

Which leads me to problemo numero uno with the whole physiotherapy thing:

1) No body likes doing physio exercises. This isn’t necessarily a problem with the physiotherapist in question, or saying that physio is a BAD idea, but more an issue with own laziness, lack of self-efficacy, and not being educated on the importance of rehabilitation. I know the damn exercises take forever to get through, like Ben Hur, but just do them! I don’t think I did the exercises once. And my back got worse. Go figure.

2) It’s too late, you’ve already hurt yourself. Wouldn’t it be better to NOT get hurt in the first place? The fact that you’re in the physio office is proof of your ineptitude to take care of your body’s needs- Namely, understanding how it functions, and then doing the things that hurt it.

3) Some physiotherapists won’t even give you exercises. I had a physiotherapist once, whom I explicitly asked to give me stretches and exercises (for my hamstring), and he said, “Well, you don’t really need to do any right now, just keep coming for treatments.” It isn’t until now that I really understood where his priorities lay, aka, my wallet. I trusted him to help me recover in the speediest way possible, but he was only interested in booking me for soft tissue therapy. You need to be careful that you’re going to someone reputable, and especially someone who knows dancers. I happen to know a miracle worker. Email me if you want her deets.

4) Some physiotherapists don’t continue their education after becoming licensed. They don’t make an effort to keep up with the latest findings, and latest techniques and research.  They are set in their ways and don’t want to change. You probably know people like that.

So we’ve established that going to physio is undesirable. What’s the solution? Well, hind-sight is 20/20. Knowing what I know now, I would have told 13 year old Monika to start strengthening my body while I was young and relatively uninjured.

I encourage young dancers to learn how their bodies work as early as possible. Make your body resistant to injuries by doing some sensible core training, especially if you’re prone to lower back pain. It’s way more fun to strength train before you’re hurt, than it is to do physio exercises or lie in the traction machine. I promise.

And do your research! Ask your physiotherapist questions before deciding to trust them with your body. Better yet, just start strength training NOW so that you can limit your future exposure to the physio.

I was talking with my mother the other day about how young is too young for someone to begin strength training. “You’re not talking about using WEIGHTS, are you??” she said. To which I replied, yes, of course! How do you think you get stronger? Is there some unwritten rule that children (I’m talking 10 years and up) shouldn’t be strong? That they shouldn’t be body-aware? Should they save these skills for later in life? I don’t think so…

In reality, strength training is probably much healthier for the body than dancing (especially ballet). The dominating thought is that dancers should start doing pointe as soon as they are strong enough (and many start doing it when they’re not yet strong enough). Between 11 and 13 is when girls generally are deemed worthy. And yet, somehow, it’s NOT ok for them to develop full body strength (strength train with weights). Strength that would make doing pointe much safer at a young age, and prevent the myriad of injuries associated with it.

It’s enough to make me want to cut off all my hair. Which I really want to do anyway. Long hair is SO hard to maintain. The number of times per day it gets stuck in zippers… Don’t get me started.

Yes, I think dancers should start strength training young. Yes, I think strength training will probably make so that you won’ thave to go to physio as often later on. At some point, most people are going to have to go see a physiotherapist for something. There’s no way you can prevent every injury. I’m just saying, it’s better to integrate your body structurally as early as possible, and I think we can all agree that saving money on physio fees is a sweet, sweet thing. Just something to think about.

Strength training and learning cool new things about your body is also way more fun than phsyio. If it isn’t, I want to meet your physiotherapist, cause he sounds awesome!