Dancer First Aid

Disclaimer: I’m a dancer not a doctor. These are remedies that I have used during my years dancing and have learnt via the dance teacher training I’m currently completing. If something is persistent, painful or acute then these remedies are not going to be enough and you need to see a health care professional. The content in this post is curated from a previous blog entry I have written for another blog.

Here’s the thing. I’m a dancer, which means that I am used to aches and pains. Very used to them in fact. Mostly it’s just been the usual overworked muscles, tired feet from pointe shoes and slightly overenthusiastic stretching the day before, but sometimes it’s more serious. I was brought up using natural remedies and they are still always my first port of call for aches, pains, strains or sprains. I know that when I have children these will be the first things I go to when they get injured. Here are some of my top remedies:

PRICED
You may have heard of RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) for muscular injuries but PRICED is that dancer version and I like that it’s just that bit more specific. This is my starting point for all injuries and muscle strains.
Protection – remove additional danger/risk from the injured area – i.e. stop whatever caused the injury/move away from anything that might make it worse
Rest – stop moving the injured area – common sense really!
Ice – apply an ice pack to the injured area for 20 minutes. You can repeat this every two hours for the first 24 – 48 hours after the injury. Don’t leave it for longer the 20 minutes as this is bad for the skin – I really can’t recommend this one enough! The cold narrows the blood vessels which helps to manage the blood flow to the injured area thus reducing swelling.
Compression – apply an elastic bandage to the area  – this again helps manage the swelling while providing support to the injured area.
Elevation – elevate the injured area – if possible to above heart level. This helps to manage the blood flow and swelling and should provide some relief from pain.
Diagnosis – have the injury evaluate by a health care professional – this isn’t always necessary, I only tend to do this if the pain is severe or continues for more than a couple of days but each person and each case is different.
Arnica
Arnica is great for sore, overworked or overuse muscles. It’s also very good at promoting healing of bruised or damaged tissue. Arnica is a homeopathic medicine which can be taken in a number of ways. I use it both externally as a cream and internally in tablet or liquid form to assist healing.
You can buy cream that is specifically just Arnica from most Chemists, or you can buy it in a combination sports rub cream. I prefer straight Arnica because I don’t like the peppermint that it’s usually combined with in sports rubs. I usually massage this into the sore area and then (depending on where on my body or how sore the injured area is) strap it up with an elastic bandage. This gives the injured area some much need support and also prevents the cream from making a mess on my clothes or the floor. I generally support this with homeopathic liquid Arnica to assist healing and repair of strained muscles from the inside out.

Comfrey
This is a new one I’ve recently discovered. I had a more serious injury last year that landed me on crutches for a while and I found that Arnica on its own wasn’t enough, so I tried comfrey cream. Not only is it an anti-inflamatory it’s also great for pain relief and is all natural.

Heat
As an injury or strain starts to heal I stop using cold packs and start using heated wheat/rice packs on the injured area. The heat helps the muscles to relax and soothes the pain naturally. This is also a great idea for when you’ve got tired muscles from a long day or an enthusiastic exercise session. Not recommended for acute injuries though as heat promotes blood flow.

Massage
You have to be a bit careful with this one. If an injury is acute, painful or recent don’t go there – I repeat don’t go there! Massage promotes blood flow and if you have swelling – that’s the last thing you want to do. However if you just have sore or achy muscles then massage can be a really good way to soothe them. As a dancer this is a common occurrence, particularly in my achilles tendons and plantar fascia after a tough pointe class. I like to use a wooden massage ball, a tennis ball or a foam roller to roll on my muscles to help them relax but hands work just as well too.
Of course this list is by no means exhaustive – it’s just what works well for me.
Now it’s your turn.
What remedies work well for you?

Why Dance?

It took me many years to grow into myself as a dancer. Part of that was physically growing into the grace of my own body as a teenager, part  was finding a style that was truly me, and part was finding my own ‘voice’ so that I could communicate my stories and ideas to others. Of course, I’m really still growing into myself as a dancer and don’t expect I’ll ever actually stop.
As a teenager, my dancing was a case of you-name-it-I-did-it, except for hiphop. That just never seemed to work. It wasn’t until I was at university and took a contemporary class that I found a style I could really get on well with. I never held any high aspirations of being a dancer professionally or teacher. I just loved to dance.
But even when you love something, you can be exhausted by it. So I quit dancing and it took me 5 years to go back. That was almost two years ago. And I have my students to thank for it. They reminded me what it is to love dancing for the pure joy of it, and now I wonder how I did without it for those 5 years.
Since getting back into dance and doing more of it with my own students, I have found myself beginning to make plans and set goals. Never having aspired to be a professional dancer, it has taken me a while to find my niche in dance. But if the last few years have taught my anything, it’s that teaching dance is something I’m passionate about and want to do more of.

I’m a big believer in the power of dance to inspire us and give us something to aspire to; and this is what I love about working with my students at school. Some aspire to be professional dancers one day, but most dance simply because they love it, because they can’t imagine not dancing. I’m constantly in awe of my students, and their passion has reinvigorated my own.

I don’t know where my dance-teaching journey will lead, but, after all, it’s the journey not the destination that really counts isn’t it?

What is DanceWell?

I’ve blogged for a long time and I’ve danced for a long time too, so in many ways DanceWell is the inevitable collision of the two. Having come back to dance as an adult and as a teacher, my sense of dance and understanding of the powerful role it can play in creating wellness has changed the way I view dance.

Having the benefit of seeing dance as a curriculum subject within the New Zealand schooling curriculum and over a decade of traditional syllabus based dance class experience, I wanted to find a way to marry the two. So I decided to tackle my biggest dance challenge yet – getting my teaching Licentiate for Ballet, while developing my school’s co-curricular dance programme.

Both of these have been a huge source of satisfaction for me, but have challenged me immensely to develop my understanding of dance pedagogy (teaching practice), dance theory, ballet and contemporary technique, dance history and, perhaps the most interesting to me, dance wellness.

So what is DanceWell? For now, it’s a creative space – a combination and a culmination of my learning and research. A place to share our stories of what it means to be dancers, and what it means to dance well, as well as advice on how to develop dance wellness.