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Dance Physiotherapy: What’s the pointe?

Dance Physiotherapy: What’s the pointe?

Dancers are commonly prone to aches and pains because of the high demand of training load and performance, whether this be at a recreational, amateur or professional level.

According to the most recent 2018 Safe Dance study, 97% of professional dancers in Australia reported at least one injury in their career. Common dance injuries include hip pain, knee pain, shin splints, stress fractures, and heel or foot pain. Pain during dance should not be ignored as it often leads to abnormal or compensatory movement patterns that can worsen the injury or lead to other overuse issues.

Injuries can be both frustrating and limiting as they prevent you from engaging in your usual training and competitions. Without the right advice and guided rehabilitation from a trained professional, these aches and pains may turn into serious injuries that may never heal on their own, leaving you with a lingering ‘dodgy’ area of your body.

Receiving an individualised dance biomechanics assessment and treatment from a practitioner with an understanding of the demands of dance is so important to ensure the underlying cause of your pain or deficit in performance is addressed. Your treatment and rehabilitation plan should be specific to your needs and goals to give you the strength and confidence to get back to dancing as soon as possible, without risking additional stress or re-injury. An assessment can also be used to identify and target any weaknesses or imbalances to improve overall performance.

Whether your goal is to make it to a professional level, or just be able to bust out some great dance floor moves on the weekend without paying for it later, dance and performance physio can help!

What does Dance Physiotherapy involve?

Dance Biomechanics Assessment:

A professional biomechanical assessment that breaks down the key elements of a dancer’s functional demands is crucial to establishing the underlying issues that often lead to pain and/or injury. It can also expose areas of weakness that can be targeted to improve performance and dance goals.

Dance physios use specific measures to assess fundamental elements of dance such as:

  • Turnout
  • Power
  • Coordination
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Dance technique and alignmen

Injury Rehab:

Due to the high demands of dance and performance, injury is just as common as high contact sports such as AFL, however more often presents over time due to overload rather than acute traumatic injury.

Like any sport, dancing requires specific strength and control to make sure movements are performed safely and to optimal performance. However, unlike most sports, in dancing we don’t usually break each style of dance into sub-specialisations that focus on a specific skill (for example, throwing for soft ballers or kicking for footy players) due to the variable and often unpredictable nature of movements in dance.

With an individual assessment, we can tailor home exercise programs to appropriately rehabilitate dance injuries or compensations that have developed over time. Hands-on treatment can also be helpful to release tight structures that may be leading to pain or movement restriction.

A key component of rehabilitation also includes dance and performance specific Pilates that uses specialised equipment to build stability through high degrees of range. Strength and conditioning is also included to provide gradual load progression and improve mechanics and power required to get back to high load movements such as turns and jumps.

Pre Pointe Assessment:

Pointe work is a physically demanding aspect of classical ballet that requires a high amount of intrinsic strength and control, not just at the foot and ankle, but in the whole body.

A pre-pointe assessment will establish whether a young dancer is ready to safely dance en pointe by evaluating whether they have adequate mobility, strength and control to put the required load through the lower limb and foot. This usually happens around the age of 13 but will come down to the combined decision by your dance teacher and physiotherapist.

Additional to testing for the required mobility, strength and control for pointe work, this assessment will also involve a full biomechanical dance screening to establish any weaknesses or areas of vulnerability that could predispose a dancer to injury when dancing en pointe.

What else can a dance physio do?

  • Prescribe individualised home exercise programs
  • Screen for pre professional programs or further study
  • Specialised Pilates for Dancers
  • Hands on treatment
  • Strapping and taping
  • Professional education and advice on injury management and return to dance

What are the benefits of working with a dance physio?

  • Improve your performance
  • Reduce your pain and susceptibility to injury/re-injury
  • Provide injury management and rehabilitation
  • Provide longevity to your dancing career

To ensure we properly understand your individual dance goals, relevant injuries and areas of focus, it is recommend booking in for an initial physiotherapy consultation. You can book online here or call 9421 3661.

By Elise McMahon


Kinematics Health + Performance (K1)

Elise is a dance lover, performer and physio who currently competes at championship level Calisthenics. She is a published author in the field of dance medicine, and has done further study to equip her with the knowledge to effectively assess and treat many styles of dance. She loves seeing performers of all genres – whether it be dancers, musicians, contortionists, vocalists or actors. Book in for a comprehensive dance or performing arts assessment with Elise here.