A dancer’s training regimen is brutal. It demands long hours of practice in the studio before one is deemed ready for the stage. Perfecting form and choreographies also mean that the body is pushed to its maximum limits. And this could mean muscle aches, fatigue, or worse, long term injuries. It’s not uncommon to see dancers tape up sprains, nurse broken bones, and soothe torn muscles. True to term, these are but mere bandaid remedies for the countless war wounds of a dedicated dancer.
Chiropractic therapy and spinal care is not just crucial for healing or improving posture. At the Intercare Clinic headed by Chiropractic Specialist Martin Camara, spinal care is regarded as the cornerstone for moving, functioning and living fully. This holds especially true for active individuals like dancers. In this special interview with Ballet Philippines, Dr. Camara shares expert tips for dancers looking to improve on performance.
Why is spinal health especially important for dancers?
I once had the opportunity to work with a principal dancer, Katherine Barkman, of the Washington Ballet for multiple issues she was having due to her increased training demand. She was preparing to compete in Varna and IBC less than two weeks apart. The treatments helped her not only perform well in both (she won a silver medal in both events) but also to perform at her peak, pain-free.
This is what she had to say about her treatments: Spinal health is important for everyone! But especially more so for dancers. Good spinal health - alignment, mobility, stability and strength will ensure that you can perform at an optimum level whilst preventing most injuries that could possibly sideline your career.
Good Spinal Alignment and Mobility ensure proper integration of the sensory and motor nerves which is critical in timing and executing complex movements. A recent study in a neurology journal showed that dysfunctional spinal segments interfere with Sensorimotor integration. Put simply it affects how your brain perceives its internal and external environment and the maps it makes. This affects your kinesthetic sense and execution.Furthermore, good spinal alignment ensures good nerve flow from your brain to your spinal cord to your peripheral nerves which power up your muscles. In essence, it makes you stronger, more stable, and able!
What are common spinal issues of those who are into dance?
Dance most commonly affects the hips, pelvis, lumbar spine, ankles, and knees. Basically your whole center and lower extremities. Poor spinal alignment leads to poor kinesthetic sense, muscle inhibition, or facilitation which sets up the stage for injury. Anything from sprained ligaments in your ankles and knees, to impingement syndromes of your hips. Pelvic and lower back pain affect four out of every five ordinary people…. I suspect even more so for dancers!
3. What spinal advice can you impart to dancers or those aspiring to get into dance?
Listen to your bodies. “No Pain, No Gain” is an outdated way of progressing in any sport or activity, especially in dance. Subtle symptoms are your body's way of warning you about an impending problem. Don’t ignore them. Address them while they are small and you can save yourselves a lot of grief in the future.
Don’t keep training over and over again without proper rest and recovery. Your body and brain need time to integrate the learning from previous dance/training sessions. Allow it the time it needs to do this. Sometimes…. Less is More.
Hot packs help induce circulation and wash away inflammatory enzymes that build up with intense training sessions. This, combined with stretching is a winning combination.
Eat a diet rich in nutrients preferably from plant sources. The Philippines is full of local plants that are wonderful sources of nutrition. Mallungay and monggo come to mind.
Sleep at least seven to nine hours a day. This is restorative, recuperative not just for your body but your brain. Sleep washes away the accumulation of TAO proteins that build up - ensuring optimal function and preventing Alzheimer’s disease as you age.
Sleep and diet are probably the biggest lifestyle factors you can change that will have the biggest impact on your overall health and well-being. See a chiropractor to ensure good spinal alignment, mobility, and nerve tone. This is Doc Martin saying…… ”Every day in every way you are getting better and better.”