The Dancer–Physical Therapist Relationship
Often when treating athletes who are on the competitive level, compliance becomes an issue. As a dancer myself for the past 15 years, non-compliance is an ongoing issue that is often misunderstood by not only the physical therapist, but also other medical providers. An article published in the Journal of Dance Medicine & Science discusses the reasoning behind this misunderstanding and provides opportunities of how we as physical therapists can improve dancer compliance and return our dancers to the studio with success.
The dancer often brushes the consequences of continuing to dance aside due to inability to relate to their health care provider. Dancers fear being told to stop dancing completely in order to heal their injury. What dancers really needs is an explanation of their injury, how it was caused, and what they can do to modify their current dance practice to avoid re-injury.1 Dancers report that they are willing to alter techniques in the short term, but not long term and would rather decrease their dance intensity level than the frequency of practice.1 This is where we as physical therapists can make a difference. Physical therapists (PTs) are rated highest by dancers for the quality of information given during therapy when compared with family physicians, sports medicine physicians, chiropractors, or massage therapists.2
By providing opportunities to educate dancers using their terminology and offer alternative ways to practice that are safe will allow dancers will improve the dancer-physical therapist relationship. Alternative exercise such as mental imagery, floor barre that minimizing full weight bearing, marking choreography either upper or lower extremities, or Pilates and yoga can help with a faster recovery. Specific questions such as: "What corrections do you get in class?" "What about your dancing are you unsatisfied with, and what are you working on?" "What specific motions make the symptom act up?" will show you as the physical therapist has a similar goal of returning your patient back to their sport.1
Treating only their symptoms does not address the issue for their overuse problems. Compensatory patterns and muscle imbalances should be evaluated and impairments should be treated after analyzing specific dance movements that the dancer usually preforms and caused the injury.1 Dance floor type, costumes, schedule, frequency of dance class, partner work, and personality should also be considered.1
Communication is key when treating dancers. By listening, observing, and providing the education to dancers, they will be back to their sport in no time.
Catie Grumbein, DPT is one of our newest PTs at PTW! To schedule an evaluation call 215-855-9871 today!
1) Sabo, Megin. "Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Strategies for Dancers: A Qualitative Study." Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, vol. 17, no. 1, Feb. 2013, pp. 11-17.
2) Ruanne L, Krasnow D, Thomas M. Communication between medical practioners and dancers. J Dance MedSci. 2008;12(2):47-53.