Dance is a physically demanding activity. Period. (or periodt as the young folks say). But somehow we feel if we aren’t professionals who dance 8 hours a day while performing 5+ shows a week, that our dancing isn’t as demanding since it’s a “hobby”. Nothing could be further from the truth and here’s why:
In addition to the hard work we exert during dance class (no matter how many classes you take a week), our outside-of-the-studio activities stress our body too. For example, sitting for long periods of time in the car and working on computer create imbalances in the body (weak core, back pain and weak hamstrings to name a few). In addition, physical activities such as running or going to the gym also stress the body, which we see as good stress, but nonetheless, they are stresses.
So…all that to say, one thing that I have found to be important to my wellness as an adult dancer is massage therapy. A licensed massage therapist can (1) release built up stress (our bodies absorb and store stress unless released), (2) work on muscle imbalances (overusing one and weakening another), and (3) provide us with valuable informationabout our bodies from an objective perspective (hearing “your IT band is tight, so that’s why your back hurts” is the confirmation and relief I need. I want to know I am not crazy and also how to fix my pain.)
I admit, though, I can get cheap about massages and think that money could be used for other family or savings purposes (read: I’m being selfish), but after each massage, I realize that a monthly massage is extremely important and especially important if I want to continue to dance, teach, and create movement that I love.#treatyoself
I recently grabbed some time on my massage therapist’s calendar for her and her business partner/co owner to talk about the benefits of massage–particularly for adult ballet dancers. I learned a lot and hopefully you will too!
A little about their business:
Jessica Snider and Chris Carson are licensed therapists who own Pure Life Wellness located in Buford, GA. They are committed to providing natural, holistic therapies that focus on the mental, physical, and spiritual natural state of balance in order to thrive in life’s pursuits.
At Pure Life Wellness they focus on providing a comprehensive approach to wellness, including an emphasis on education, communication and creating an environment for true healing to occur. For more information: https://purelifehealthandwellness.com
Q: What are some physical and mental benefits of massage?
A:There are many physical benefits of massage. Here’s the top 5:
- Relives muscle tension, stiffness and pain by stimulating the release of endorphins such as serotonin & dopamine
- Improves flexibility and range of motion
- Increases flow of lymphatic system (which supply nutrients to cells and help them rid the body of waste materials)
- Reduces stress & blood pressure
- Helps relax the mind and aid in better sleep
- Massage therapy activates neurotransmitters that can decrease anxiety and stress hormone levels.
- It also Improves sleep quality therefore aiding in mental clarity.
Q: How can massage improve the overall health of a dancer?
A: Massage increases the agility and flexibility of the muscles. After an intense performance or class, it can reduce tension in soft tissue and stretch the muscles, therefore leading to less tears and/or injuries. Also, massage increases circulation around joints which aids in promotion of healing and boosts the immune system by increasing white blood cell counts.
Q: I hear about myofascial release. What is it and why is it useful?
A: Myofascial release is a massage technique that involves applying sustained pressure on the myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore range of motion.
It is useful in correcting muscle imbalances, improving range of motion and relieving joint stress. (Note: Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. I also liked how they described fascia. It’s like the casing on sausage. It should be soft and pliable, but it can become hard foam rolling is a great way to incorporate myofascial release techniques at home).
Q: What type of massage is best for adult dancers? Are different types of massage better for different purposes (e.g. before a performance, after class, over a rest period)?
A: Massage depends on the individual, however Swedish, Sports, Deep Tissue and Myofascial Release are all good techniques for ballet dancers.
- Sports massages would be best before a performance because it’s a more vigorous technique and helps increase energy and of course blood flow.
- After class, the technique would depend on the needs of the individual. Some would need Swedish technique while others would need deep tissue (mainly to release the tension in sort of a maintenance mode). It’s important for an individual not to allow the muscles to get to a certain point of stress because that will increase the chances of injury.
- During a rest period massage is still important because consistent massage creates muscles memory. Over time massage can train the muscles to know when it’s time to release. (UMMM YES!)
Q: Can massage increase my range of motion? If so how?
A:Very simply yes. Massage can lengthen the muscles and stretch out the fascia tissue.
Q: Can massage help with injury prevention? If so how?
A:Yes. see above [Massage increases the agility and flexibility of the muscles. After an intense performance or class, it can reduce tension in soft tissue and stretch the muscles, therefore leading to less tears and/or injuries.]
Q: Can massage speed up injury recovery? If so, how and when?
A: Sometimes, but it depends on the injury. Massage increases circulation which promotes healing and also reduces tension by lengthening the muscles. It can certainly help relieve a pulled or “knotted” muscle, however it’s not going to help much with a severe tear. The “when” really depends on the severity of the injury. In some cases an injury can be fixed with one massage. Others take multiple treatments and proper nutrition.
Q: For taking dance class one day a week, what is your recommendation for massages?
A: While it greatly depends on the state of the body of the individual, at a minimum, once per month, but preferably two times a month.
Q: I am constantly hearing from you that my calves and lower back are tight.For a dancer, what is the problem with “tight muscles”?
A: Tight muscles are more prone to tearing with intense dance routines and in extreme cases cause irreparable damage to the joints (especially in knees and hips). Dancers will often get tendinitis as a precursor to tearing a muscle.
Q: Can massage treat or reduce joint/muscle inflammation? If so how?
A: In some cases yes. The inflammation in the joints and muscles is often due to too much tension at the muscles attachment. The extra tension puts more stress on the joint and the tendons of the muscles causing a natural inflammation response. Lengthening the muscles from the “belly” of the muscle toward the joint will reduce the tension, therefore reliving the inflammation. Though there is a degree of “good inflammation” that comes with massage.
Q: What are some of the problems areas you see in adult dancers? (Please include problems resulting from (1) overused muscles and (2) areas that neglected or underused that become weak)
A: (1) Tendinitis, knee issues, hip issues, natural joint fusions, slipped or compressed discs. (2) muscle unbalance, affect on posture, and slipped or compressed disc’s.
Q: What are some of the oils you recommend adult dancers use? Why?
A: (1) Magnesium oil- Because muscles deficient in magnesium will stay tight (2) Eucalyptus oil- it has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antispasmodic properties (3) Lavender oil- it also has anti-inflammatory properties and can relieve inflammation around joints (4) Rosemary oil- contains both antioxidant and potent anti-inflammatory properties (5) peppermint oil- contains menthol, menthone which relieve discomfort associated with aches and pains and inflammation (6) frankincense oil- it’s a potent anti-inflammatory agent and a sedative.
Q: When is massage not beneficial?
A: When an injury is acute, it’s better to allow the inflammation and (in some cases) the adrenaline to settle. Massaging the area too soon can actually increase the inflammation and prolong the problem. Also if you have a blood clot, fever, sunburn, rashes or open wounds, it’s best to hold off on a massage.
Any dancers love massage? Hate it? Too busy? I’m curious.
keep on dancing beautiful dancer,