4 Common Health Conditions That Affect Dancers

Ballet requires intense effort, and as a result, no dancer goes unscathed. While some students suffer from a preexisting condition, ballet can definitely cause aches and pains for others. Here are 4 common health conditions that affect dancers, and how to address them in class.

1. Arthritis

Ballerina bends his body because an ankle pain

Arthritis, or inflammation of the joints, is one of the most common ailments experienced in, and outside, the studio. Dancers typically feel pain and stiffness in their ankles and knees. Be careful to roll through the feet when landing, distributing weight from toe to heel. This helps prevent shock compression to the joints, further exacerbating the issue. Pronating the feet while trying to achieve turnout can also aggravate arthritis, putting strain on the tendons and joints. Making sure your weight is properly distributed while performing plié and landing from jumps can help reduce the painful effects of arthritis while dancing.

2. Plantar Fasciitis

legs of ballet dancer girl on white background

Every dancer wants high arches so they can create beautiful lines. Unfortunately, those high arches often come at a price. Repetitive motion and weight bearing activity can cause tension in the plantar fascia, the strip of tissue that runs along the bottom of the foot. This can result in sharp pain and swelling around the ankles and heels. Even dancers with flat feet are prone to plantar fasciitis. Strengthening the muscles in the lower leg can help stabilize your ankles and heels, reducing the risk of developing this painful problem.

3. Hyperextended Knees

Studio shot, young legs graceful ballerina. Dancer standing on his toes.

Hyperextension of the knees is another common issue experienced by novices and professionals alike. When the knees are bent backward too far, past the normal range of motion, it can cause severe pain and swelling in the surrounding joints and ligaments. Be careful not to lock your knees too tightly when performing movements like sous-sous, or straining your turnout in fifth position. If you experience discomfort, consider wearing a temporary knee brace, and practice RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) after class.

4. Scoliosis

Young, graceful ballerina sitting on the floor on a black background in a studio in the slope face touching knees. Close-up.

If you suffer from a lateral curvature of the spine, movements like arabesque and cambré can really do a number on your back. Having personally struggled with lordosis, an extreme inward curvature of the spine, I’m no stranger to nagging back pain. Strengthening your abdominal muscles through conditioning exercises will help support the spine and reduce pain. If you have scoliosis, rest assured you’re not alone! In fact, Wendy Whelan, a former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet had scoliosis, and you would never know since she was an amazing dancer. With regular physical therapy and attention to her technique, she managed to have a stellar career!

While these conditions can be frustrating, don’t allow them to discourage you from dancing!


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