Physical Therapy For Dancers: A Return To Dance Progression

Staying well-fitted and avoiding injuries is essential for dancers of all ages and genres. Physical therapy for dancers is a familiar solution to get injured dancers or dancers who have overcome surgery back to the studio. The sooner the dancers do, the easier they can get back to their prior performance and pursuit their dance career path.

Let’s learn about physical therapy in dancing, its importance, how it occurs, and what dancers need to notice to avoid using this medical treatment.

How Important Is Physical Therapy For Dancers

Physical therapy mainly focuses on recovering full body function for dancers after surgery or an accident. Besides, it also teaches dancers how to avoid future unwanted injuries.

For that purpose, dance physical therapy should have strength and control training exercises beyond flexibility and stretch. By exercising muscles with resistant bands and other techniques, dancers can avoid sprains, tears, fractures, and other injuries that can affect their performance and career path.

The level of physical therapy can vary based on the dancer’s health condition.

For Ballet Dancers, The Importance Of PT Is Even More

Ballet requires a lot of movements in the ankle and foot. Dancing ‘en pointe’ (or dancing on toes) is extremely difficult and requires a lot of stress on the feet and ankles of dancers.

However, due to the lack of skeletal development, muscular strength, mental focus, and pressure from parents, teachers, and dance instructors, many ballet dancers have to start their ballet dancing too soon. This immature starting can lead to risks of injuries in the joints and soft tissues.

Moreover, the position of the foot and ankle bones of a ballet dancer in an ‘en pointe’ position can lead to further arthritic changes in her foot and ankle.

To avoid injuries and life-long health issues in ballet dancing, a dancer should only begin their career at an appropriate age and have a strict routine of practicing dancing and athletic skills.

In physical therapy for ballet dancers, therapists specialized in orthopedics or sports. And sports rehabilitation should have solutions to treat injury symptoms and designs a program to strengthen the musculature of the core and lower extremities.

Check more: How To Apply Stage Makeup For Dancers?

What Will Physical Therapists Do For Dancers?

Unlike non-dancers, dancers are knowledgeable in anatomy and movement. So, the purpose of physical therapy for dancers is to help them get through the pain and back to the studio with their best performance.

In physical therapy, the therapist communicates with the dance patient to understand the nature of his dance style. After that, the patient is required to take various dancing exercises with music to resolve short-term pains.

Throughout the exercises, the therapist continuously addresses the long-term needs of the dancer and helps them reach their physical goal.

But, there are cases that physical therapists have to cooperate as a team with other people in charge, like dance coaches and choreographers.

For example, when a dancer performs through pain, it can lead to repetitive injuries. And the dancer only realizes that he needs medical treatment when his body can do basic functions (like walking). This situation doesn’t only result in chronic pain and surgical prevention but also leads to the end of his dancing career.

Don’t Be Confused With “Dance Therapy”

While physical therapy is a medical treatment specialized for dancers, dance therapy is for everyone.

Dance therapy is a method of using dancing and music to change our brain chemistry, make better movements, and ameliorate our mental health. This treatment method is often used to treat Parkinson’s disease or kill pains without using drugs.

What Do Dancers Say About PT?

After understanding what physical therapy for dancers is, its importance, and how it occurs, we should take a brief look at what other dancers say about PT and their experience with this medical treatment.

Formerly a dancer and a Bowstring-certified therapist in Prosper, Texas, Dr. James Fredrickson, DPT has some sharing on the importance of PT. James follows his career as a therapist for 5 years to communicate with fellow dancers and give back to the dance community.

“When I was dancing ballet I was always working with fellow dancers to find ways to become stronger and more flexible,” he says. “If I had paid closer attention to the knowledge of my physical therapist when I was dancing, I could have extended my dance career.”

Dara Oda, a professional dance artist, has a different approach to injuries in dancing. She often has intensive care for her mental and physical health before a challenging show to prevent minor issues from turning into major ones.

She also well cooperates with her physical therapists to get fast and efficient recovery via frequent dealing with issues like tight muscles or exercises to strengthen her muscles.

“As dancers, we’re used to dealing with pain, but there are some things that shouldn’t be pushed through. Thanks to PT, I have a better understanding of my body and how to take care of myself so that I can be as strong and healthy as possible.”

You”ll love: Diet For Dancers


1. What is the most traumatic injury in dancers?

An ankle sprain is the most traumatic injury in dancers. When your ankle is sprained, the ligaments on the outside and inside of your foot get overstretched and twisted and there might be tears.

2. How to prevent dance injuries?

To prevent injuries in dancing, you should do a proper warm-up before the performance. However, you should not stretch cold muscles before warm-up, since it can lead to injury.

There are some cross-training exercises to prevent injuries like pilates or swimming. These exercises help strengthen core muscles, elevate your endurance, and improve dancing-related techniques and skills.

Before performing a high-demanding performance like en-pointe dancing, you should get an evaluation to know whether your body is mature for en-pointe.

You should also consider some other factors like basic ballet skills, your body’s strength and flexibility of the ankles and the feet, body balance, turnout, core control, and alignment. If you are experiencing pain, don’t start dancing and get help from a healthcare professional.

Last but not least, never start pointe unless you are 12 years old or older. Premature dancing can lead to serious injuries and loss of chance in your dancing career.

Happy Dancing!

Dancing requires a high level of body flexibility and strength and takes years of hard work. Therefore, you should not start your dance career too soon, especially if you are pursuing ballet dancing.

If you are experiencing pain, or need help with recovery after surgery, don’t try to dance. Contact an experienced physical therapist to get help on physical therapy exercises for dancers and further treatment to cure the pain and get your body ready for the studio soon.

Leave a Comment