Too many individuals are coming into my natural health practice with this issue for me to ignore.
Perhaps because I’m also a dance instructor I come across it more often and hear about it from students, however I’m also finding it is affecting those who are physically active in other ways…so for those individuals, while this post is directed at dancers you will still find it helpful to keeping your hip movements full, active and pain free.
For each individual that is afflicted by dancers hip, more often the causes are different…at least that has been my experience. So the first step in understanding Dancer’s Hip is to have a really good assessment done by a practitioner that understands muscles and body mechanics. The problem may be in the actual hip joint, may be caused by muscles around the hip or even caused by muscles on the other side of the body from where the pain is felt. A good assessment will give you that information and that is your essential starting point for healing.
The Hip is an amazing ball joint that allows us to move our legs forward and back, up and down and towards and away from our body. (Other joints get involved in some of those movements as well.) The joint is held together and allowed movement by some of the body’s largest muscle groups. It isn’t often that I see a dancer with an issue in the actual joint, but more so in the muscles and tendons surrounding the hip or those a little further away that are helping the hip to move… and there are many!
These muscles and attached tendons also create movement in other joints they attach to in addition to the hip. Muscles that relate our hip moves to our knees, low back, pelvis and sacrum.
An important tip to remember: Bones don’t move the body, Muscles move the bones that move the body.
When a muscle is overworked, tight and restricted without being given adequate rest, stretching and nutrition or is injured it will begin to limit the movements of our joints or cause pain in those movements. Swelling, inflammation, spasm, fatigue, injury … all can lead to muscles that just will not work without pain or only work within a limited range of motion. As the condition becomes worse so does the pain and the range of motion more limited. Many dancers work through the pain and dance anyways while not allowing their body to heal. YIKES! That is asking for problems in the future.
Specific to hip movements the most common areas I see dancers having issues are in the Gluteal muscles, Piriformis, the Adductors (move towards the body), the abductors (move away from the body), the Gracilis, the Tensor Fascia Lata and Iliotibial band (connecting gluteal muscles to the knee), the Sacro- iliac joint (connecting the sacrum to the gluteal muscles), the muscles of the Lower Back, the Flexors, Extensors and the Psoas muscles. This is why assessment is so crucial. You may be having pain in your right hip but if it’s caused by a restriction from a low back muscle on the left side then massaging away at the right Iliotibial band is not going to heal the problem. It may give you some temporary relief but it won’t heal the cause of the pain.
Why avoid dancers hip? Because it’s no fun to do anything while you’re in pain and you want to give your body the opportunity to enjoy all the activities you love for many years to come!
- Stretching, stretching and more stretching!… when warming up and cooling down from your dance practice, golf game or gardening venture is so good for your muscles and helps to keep them loose, limbered and healthy. When warming up your muscles are cold, don’t over stretch them! Your warm up should gently mimic the moves that you’ll be asking your muscles and body to create during your practice or event. The more active, deeper stretches can be saved for when the muscles are warm…after your practice.
- LISTEN to the body’s messages during your practice. This can’t be stressed enough. Pain is always a strong and clear indication that something is wrong…pay attention to it. Also pay attention to the type of pain…is it an ache, is it sharp, where is it starting and where is it travelling to, how deep in the body is it?
Where it is and what type of pain it is are insights to what is happening in the muscle or joint and which muscle is causing it. Please don’t ignore what the body is telling you as it can lead to some more challenging, long term, range of motion issues.
(Range of Motion means the full amount of motion in the possible directions that a joint can make, limiting the range means limiting the joints ability to move fully)
- Don’t push your body to move beyond its natural anatomical motions and elastic limits. Our body structure is like that of a bridge, (though created naturally) and when respected, it will provide us with sound balance and support. We can gradually increase our elastic limits through practice.
- Don’t over work it! Your muscles will respond or “fire” better plus create new muscle memory by shorter, daily practices than going at it for an hour and taking the chance of a new or recurring injury.
- Breathe, nourish & hydrate your muscles! Oxygen, healthy muscle building foods and lots of water are essential.
Yes your body can heal from Dancer’s Hip and give you many years of pain free motion for the future…the key is to listen to the body, pay attention to what it is telling you and take the steps sooner rather than later to give it a healing chance.
- After a thorough assessment, treatment to heal the muscles is important, PLUS giving the treatment time to work. Consider how many repetitive muscle movements have caused the issue and over how long a period of time…are you only going to give your muscles one treatment to heal? That’s a bandaid solution…easing the pain but not healing the problem.
- Use ice or heat on the muscles affected. Ice reduces inflammation to swollen muscles, heat increases circulation to bring added blood supply and nutrients. Talk with your health professional about which is best OR listen to what your body tells you feels the best.
- Take it slow when getting back to your dance or garden or golf. The day you have a massage or other treatment to the area your muscles are getting a deep workout and need time to rest and repair. Give them the next day at least and then take it slow in your movements when you do begin to dance (or engage in other activities) again. Warm the muscle up really well, make your movements smaller and do fewer repetitions. Give the muscle time to regain its strength…baby it and it will give you so much more in return.
- Have a one on one session with your dance teacher and learn which other muscles you can use to create the same moves that don’t strain the muscle that is healing. When teaching I discuss this a lot with students, it’s important in dance and many other activities. The body has numerous large muscle groups to help you lift and drop your hip (and other body parts), it may change your move for a little while but you will still be able to dance! And you’re giving other muscles a chance to move stretch and wake up!
Learn This is a simple explanation of hip muscles and mechanics. Learning more about how the body moves and particularly about how your body moves will empower you to get more from your muscles, pain free for years ahead.
Coming soon! BODY BASICS FOR BELLY DANCERS & THEIR TEACHERS An online course of basic anatomy and physiology for belly dancers & their teachers…keeping it simple, easy to understand and fun! This course will introduce basic anatomy and how the body moves, different conditions that may limit movements or require the use of different muscles to create them PLUS ways to care for muscles, joints, … NATURALLY so that you have many years of enjoying a full and unlimited dance experience…watch for it!