Thinkstock

Pain Pointers: How to Tell Good Pain from Bad Pain

Physical discomfort is inevitable when you're spending tons of hours in the studio every day, but some pain shouldn't be suffered through. "Dancing through pain can make an injury worse and lead to more time away from dance," says Dr. Joel Brenner, medical director of dance medicine at Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters in Norfolk, VA. "Failing to rest and recover when you're in serious pain could even lead to the point where you're unable to dance in the future."

That may sound scary, but there's good news: If you take precautions and listen to your body, many injuries can be stopped in their tracks. The first step? Knowing what's normal—and what's not.


Good Pain, Bad Pain

You likely already know that an acute injury (like a broken bone or torn muscle) causes persistent, sharp pain. You also know that mild soreness isn't necessarily harmful—it's a by-product of muscles getting stronger. But pay attention if soreness is getting worse or affecting how you're dancing. According to Brenner, "Some common adolescent dance injuries, like stress fractures in the back, can present as persistent soreness that gets worse with dancing."

Other sources of concern include swelling around the site of pain or feelings of instability in or around a joint. Basically, a good rule of thumb is that if any kind of pain has stuck around for five to seven days, it's time to think about seeing your MD.

Preemption and Prevention

Want to avoid taking time off from dance to heal serious injuries? Spend time outside of the studio on a regular basis. "Make sure you aren't always dancing seven days a week," says Brenner. "The body and brain need to recover. Pain, injury, and burnout often go together." Classic healthy habits—like cross-training with Pilates and yoga, eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and steering clear of harmful stuff like alcohol and cigarettes—will also help keep pain away.

It's OK if you occasionally pop an ibuprofen after dancing or performing, but don't overdo it. "There's a reason your body's having pain: It's the sign of a problem," Brenner says. Never take more than the recommended dosage, and remember that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) shouldn't need to be part of your everyday routine.


A version of this story appeared in the October 2017 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Pain Pointers."

Latest Posts


Viktorina Kapitonova in "Swan Lake Bath Ballet" (photo by Ryan Capstick, courtesy Corey Baker Dance)

Please Enjoy the Quarantine Genius of “Swan Lake Bath Ballet”

That old saying about limitations breeding creativity—hat tip to Orson Welles—has never felt more relevant than in these lockdown days. Here's the latest brilliant dance project born (hatched?) of quarantine restrictions: "Swan Lake Bath Ballet," a contemporary take on the classic featuring 27 A-list ballet dancers performing from their own bathtubs.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search