Health & Body

Acupuncture for Dancers: What to Expect, and How It Works

Thinkstock

Acupuncture has proven benefits for reducing pain and getting dancers back on their feet, but it's also a way to treat your overall well-being—in both mind and body. "Acupuncture works very holistically," says Cassandra Krug, licensed acupuncturist at the Acupuncture Clinic of Boulder, in Boulder, CO. "Even if you come in because of ankle pain, we're looking at your whole body. We're trying to return you to a place of homeostasis, or balance."

Peter Schmidt, a licensed acupuncturist who works with Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers, thinks that acupuncture—when combined with the work of dancer-friendly Western doctors, physical therapists, and orthopedists—results in a higher success rate for his patients. "Acupuncture can't address everything," he says. "But for things that are bothering you that don't show up on an X-ray or MRI, acupuncture could help." Is acupuncture right for you? We talked to the experts to find out what dancers should know before going under the needle.



Thinkstock

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is the use of very fine needles to stimulate healing in the body. And though it's a newish concept to a lot of people, it's actually been part of Chinese medicine for thousands of years. "Chinese medicine has eight branches, including massage and herbal medicine," says Steve Pang, a NYC–based licensed acupuncturist who has treated dancers extensively since 2005. "Acupuncture is one of those branches."

Schmidt describes acupuncture as a way of working with the body's natural intelligence. "As we go through life, there's emotional and physical injury and trauma," he says. "Acupuncture helps the body heal itself."
Pang adds that when he treats dancers, he often sees immediate pain reduction, thanks to acupuncture's ability to release muscle spasms and increase circulation. "Acupuncture will also reduce inflammation, which can contribute to stiff joints. You may have better range of motion after acupuncture," he says.

How Does It Work?

The jury is still out on exactly how acupuncture works, but there are two ways to think about it: a traditional Chinese medicine perspective and a Western biological medicine perspective.

The traditional explanation for acupuncture is that needles are inserted along lines of energy in the body, called meridians, which connect to major organs. Sometimes energy, or qi (pronounced "chee"), gets stuck along the meridians, which is how illnesses and pain are thought to arise. "I tell my patients to imagine the body as a river," Krug says. "There could be many different reasons why water flow in a river is abnormal. Maybe there's a log blocking the river." According to acupuncturists, the same things can happen to the energy in your body. Krug says that acupuncturists will look for things like inflammation or scar tissue, which block qi.

Many Western practitioners see traditional acupuncture points not as lines of energy but as spots to stimulate nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, releasing natural painkillers (like endorphins and adenosine) and increasing blood flow. "For the purpose of dance medicine, acupuncture stimulates metabolic activity, releases tight muscles, and regulates circulation," Pang says. Topical treatments and pharmaceuticals can do the same, but "these are hard on the body and have repercussions over time," Schmidt says. "Acupuncture gently brings the body back to its natural state of health."

What to Expect

Your first acupuncture appointment will be similar to your first visit with a new pediatrician: You'll talk about your medical history and what brought you into the office. But there'll be a few notable differences. Your acupuncturist will look at your tongue (to check the functioning of your digestion and lymphatic system) and feel the pulse in your wrist. She'll also ask detailed questions about your digestion, sleep patterns, and eating habits. "We're looking for underlying deficiencies," Krug says. Your acupuncturist will then devise a treatment intended to nudge your body back toward healthy homeostasis.

During your visit, you'll lie on a padded table and your acupuncturist will insert superthin needles—finer than a hair—into your skin. It might feel like a tiny sting or mosquito bite, but pain or discomfort from the needle shouldn't last. As the treatment starts to work, you might feel a tingling sensation. This is your body responding to stimulation. Don't be surprised if your acupuncturist places needles away from where you're feeling pain. Because she's looking at your mind and body as a whole, she's thinking about many different things that could contribute to your discomfort.

Be sure to ask your acupuncturist how many treatments she thinks you'll need, and be aware that not all medical insurance covers acupuncture. A chronic injury could require many treatments; for body maintenance, you may decide to get acupuncture less frequently.


A version of this story appeared in the September 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Moving The Needle."

The Conversation
Health & Body
Getty Images

Ever since starting her professional career, Broadway dancer Amber Ardolino has cupped. Using the holistic wellness practice to improve performance and take care of her body, Ardolino cupped before it was cool—even beating the 2016 Rio Olympics' purple polka-dotted athletes to the punch. But Ardolino's only one dancer who has put this therapy to regular use. Dance Spirit asked Carrie Gaerte, PT, DPT, ATC, and performance rehab specialist with St. Vincent Sports Performance who works with Indianapolis' Dance Kaleidoscope; and Thomas Droge, Chinese-medicine doctor and founder of Pathfinder Institute in NYC, to explain the ins and outs of cupping therapy.

Amber Ardolino in "Hamilton" (courtesy Ardolino)

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Inside a Rockette audition (Amanda Schwab/Starpix)

Let's be real: Auditions can be rough. No matter how prepared you are, a lot of variables go into every audition—which means even the best of us mess up sometimes! Here are 7 audition fails every dancer has experienced at one point or another.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Fashion
Photo by Erin Baiano

4 hiring powers-that-be told DS their "do's" for dressing to audition.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Videos
Via YouTube

Oh, baby I'm a wreck (wreck) after watching Kinjaz's new music video.

Set to Post Malone's "Sunflower," the lead single from the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack, the vid features the dance crew's ever-fabulous men—who appear to have Spidey senses, because seriously, how else do they stay down-to-the-fingertips in sync?—performing Vinh Nguyen's super-tight choreography, with an overlay of comic-book-esque graphics by editor Jonathan Shih.

Keep reading... Show less
See photo credits below

What inspires you most as a dancer? What keeps you going on the days when the motivation just isn't there, and makes you feel like all the hard work, rejection and sacrifice is worth it for the pursuit of your dream? What makes you want to run into an empty studio and create something new?

Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a studio owner with over four decades of experience, often hangs posters with dance-related quotes on the walls of her studio, on everything from creativity to the hustle to the importance of teamwork. Sometimes the right words from dancers who have been there are just the push you need to spark your imagination and remind yourself why you love what you do.

In that spirit, here are 10 inspiring quotes from dancers on what their art form means to them, and why it's worth fighting through the hard parts:

Keep reading... Show less
Cover Story
Photo by Nathan Sayers

Chloe Misseldine has every reason to be nervous as she and her partner run through the challenging wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Their performance is just days away and the two American Ballet Theatre Studio Company dancers have only had a week to prepare. Add to that the fact that ABT principal Gillian Murphy, one of the world's most famous ballerinas, is at the front of the studio taking notes.

Keep reading... Show less
Body Buzz
Getty Images

If you haven't followed through on your New Year's resolution to practice more self-care, then Valentine's Day is the perfect time to start. Below, we rounded up the best ways to pamper, indulge, and heal everything from your muscles, to your skin, to your mind. Your body (and your dancing) will thank you.

Keep reading... Show less
via joffreyballetschool.com

It's never too early to start thinking about your dream job. And summer intensives are an essential step down the road to achieving your dance dreams—whether you want to perform in music videos, ballet companies or Broadway shows.

With 19 programs across the U.S. (plus additional international programs) Joffrey Ballet School offers options for all types of dancers with all types of goals. Whatever you may be working toward this summer, there's a program that will help you get that much closer. We put together a guide to help you find the right one, based on your dream job:

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
"SYTYCD" hopefuls at The Academy (Adam Rose/FOX)

"So You Think You Can Dance" just kicked off Season 15 with a fabulous audition episode. Unfortunately, as always, some of the gifted dancers we just met won't make it to the live shows. In fact, so many talented artists have tried out for "SYT," it can be hard to remember standout auditionees from the past who didn't reach the Top 20. But many of them have gone on to have fantastic careers. Here are five amazing dancers who you probably don't remember auditioning for "SYTYCD."

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun

Colder weather is (finally) here, which means it's time for a good dance movie binge. But which iconic films should you put on? To narrow your search, we went ahead and ranked 30 of the greatest dance movies of all time.

Of course, we know a list like this is bound to be controversial—so if you disagree with our lineup, have at it in the comments!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
State Ballet of Siberia dancer Yury Kudriavtsev wearing Siberian Swan shoes (courtesy Siberian Swan)

As ballet's gender roles grow increasingly blurred, more men than ever are reaching new heights: the tips of their toes.

It's no longer just Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo and the few pointe-clad male character parts, like in Cinderella or Alexei Ratmansky's The Bright Stream. Some male dancers are starting to experiment with pointe shoes to strengthen their feet or expand their artistry. Michelle Dorrance even challenged the men in her cast at American Ballet Theatre to perform on pointe last season (although only Tyler Maloney ended up actually doing it onstage).

The one problem? Pointe shoes have traditionally only been designed for women. Until now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

Are you a college student curious about what goes on behind the scenes at your favorite magazine? You're in luck—because Dance Spirit is searching for an editorial intern for summer 2019!

We'll be accepting applications through March 1. Internships pay an hourly stipend and require a minimum two-day-a-week, onsite commitment in our NYC office from June to August. (We do not provide assistance securing housing.)

If you're interested, please send a cover letter, resumé and two writing samples to Margaret Fuhrer at mfuhrer@dancemedia.com. Be sure to put "Summer Internship Application" in the subject line. All attachments must be formatted as PDFs.

We will interview selected candidates in March in person or by phone, and let candidates know by mid-April if they have been chosen. Please note that we do not accept high school students, or any students under 18, and that we give preference to college juniors and seniors.

We can't wait to meet you!

Dance on TV
CBS

Need more evidence that K-pop is taking over the universe, one infectiously catchy song and impeccably choreographed dance routine at a time? Look no further than BLACKPINK's fabulous appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" last night.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance on TV
GET IT, Janelle. (Getty Images)

Yes, yes, it's a music awards show, but for us, it's *always* all about the dancing. And last night, the Grammy performers—especially the ladies—gave us everything our little dancer hearts desired. Happy early Valentine's Day to us! 😍

Keep reading... Show less
Rising Stars
Images by Norelle, courtesy Jennifer Falcione

When we asked what her proudest accomplishment so far is, Kiarra Waidelich paused for a moment. That's because she has so many to choose from: In the past two years, Kiarra's earned Mini and Junior Female Best Dancer at The Dance Awards, snagged Youth America Grand Prix's Hope Award, and made it to the divisional finals on Season 2 of "World of Dance." Equally gifted in ballet ("I love the mental and physical challenge") and contemporary, it's the latter that made Kiarra realize dance was her passion. "If something bad or stressful happens in my day, I use contemporary as a way to express and release what I'm feeling," she says. "Dance is a way for me to emote and let things go."

Keep reading... Show less
Branch Out
Adrienne Gregorek working on physical therapy exercises with a patient (courtesy Gregorek)

When Adrienne Gregorek was 14, she injured her hamstring and was sent to physical therapy. "I was super frustrated," she remembers. "I went to a clinic where there were mostly older people being treated and felt like the staff didn't understand the needs of a dancer. When they were re-testing me at the end, they said, 'You're good,' even though I really wasn't where I needed to be for optimal strength and flexibility."

For many dancers looking for their next step beyond the stage, a career that continues to connect them to the art is a no-brainer. In Gregorek's case, her interest in the human body, coupled with her passion for dance, led her to a career in physical therapy and landed her a job at Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, where she treats dancers, including members of New York City Ballet and students at the School of American Ballet.

Keep reading... Show less

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways