Health & Body

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Dance-Related Problems

Thinkstock

Podiatrist Thomas Novella remembers one of his first interactions with dancer feet. Fresh out of podiatry school, he saw a patient from The Joffrey Ballet and assumed he knew the clear way to help her out. “I thought I was doing her a favor by trimming her calluses off, just like I'd been trained to do," Novella says. “She called me every day for the next two weeks screaming at me until the calluses started to come back. I immediately learned my lesson!" Now more than 30 years into his career, Novella works with dancers from New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and other dance companies at his practice in NYC, so he's not only learned the importance of calluses to protect delicate skin, but also things like the risks of an ill-fitted shoe, and the toll that Nutcracker season can put on a body. But not every dancer is lucky enough to have a doctor who knows the ins and outs of the dance world. Dance Spirit asked the experts to break down four common scenarios in which your doctor will be better able to help you if you can give a dance-specific description of your needs.


“Your Feet Are a Mess!"

You're experiencing pain in your fourth metatarsal and a twinge in your Achilles tendon. It's time to see a doctor—but you're afraid he or she will freak out once you take your socks off. To start, “Make sure your doctor knows that some things look like a problem in the normal population, but aren't in dancers," Novella says. We know our feet might not be pretty, but it's important that they be functional, which means something different to dancers than it does to non-dancers. “Things like thick nails, enlarged bunions and enlarged fifth metatarsal joints aren't unhealthy; they just tell the story of an instrument that has adapted to dance," he says. Emily Sandow, a doctor of physical therapy at NYU Langone Medical Center's Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, suggests describing to your doctor what kinds of shoes and floors have transformed your feet into the beautiful mess they are today—and why you'd actually prefer they stay that way. “Explain that dancing barefoot creates friction that can result in protective calluses, and the pressure of pointe shoes naturally causes blisters and corns," Sandow says. “After a detailed explanation, the doctor should be able to move more than skin deep to address the primary complaints of pain."

“Absolutely No Dancing."

When you go to a doctor with a foot or leg injury, the easiest way for them to ensure you heal properly may be to tell you to stay off of it. But all serious dancers know that a couple of weeks without dance sounds as ridiculous as a couple of weeks without air. Doctors who don't know a ton about dance may not realize there are ways to modify class to avoid putting stress on an injured limb. “I recommend that dancers actually take their doctors step-by-step through a dance class," says Katie Lemmon, a certified athletic trainer at Athletico Physical Therapy in Chicago. “If you can, demonstrate a barre on your uninjured leg, and ask specific questions about each step. 'Can I do this?' 'What if I do it without a relevé/heel lift?' 'What if I stand on two legs and just do the arms?' " If barre is out of the question, lie on the ground and go through a floor barre as your doctor points out things that are unsafe. It may be a painstakingly slow process, but you'll leave your doctor's office with a list of dos and don'ts to take with you to class.

“You're Too Thin."

You know keeping your body in tip-top shape is important, so when a doctor mentions that you're a little underweight for your age, it can be distressing. The key is to find out why your doctor is recommending you gain weight. It may be because your bone density is low, or because you haven't had consistent periods, which could lead to debilitating injuries or health problems in the future. Knowing what the underlying health issue is can make it easier to fix the problem without sacrificing the physique you've worked so hard for. “It may be that you're just overloading on carbs, when you should be focusing on more protein, calcium or vitamin D in your diet," Novella says. You could also try working with a nutritionist to tailor your diet to be sure you're getting all the nutrients you need. As long as you're not severely underweight, in which case gaining weight may be in your best interest, strengthening your body with adjustments to your diet is possible without putting on extra pounds.

“Dance Isn't Enough Exercise."

A good dance class or rehearsal (especially several of them in a row!) can be just as rigorous and exhausting as any soccer game, but a doctor who's unfamiliar with dance may still ask you to step up your exercise regimen. Instead of getting defensive, the key here is to help your doctor understand the specifics of your routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests 60 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise every day for children and adolescents, and 2.5 hours per week for adults. So it's up to you to explain to your doctor when and how you're meeting that standard. If your doctor's still not convinced, he may have a point. “If you're going to the studio four to six hours every day for training in a variety of dance styles, and all weekends are spent in dance classes and rehearsals, you're probably getting more than enough exercise, but taking low-intensity ballet classes twice a week doesn't make the cut," says Sandow. “Keep in mind that dance has been shown to be less physically intense than other athletic sports. This may be due to the quick bursts of exercise followed by longer recovery periods as the teacher explains a combination, or dance's emphasis on agility and grace, rather than speed, force and power." Feel free to ask another doctor for a second opinion, but you may also consider adding a little cross-training to your weekly routine.

Show Comments ()
Popular

Summer dance camp season will be here before you know it and you might be starting to wonder what you need to pack in your bag. Don't stress, we have 5 of the top must haves for camp this summer!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
n RWS Entertainment Group Audition (courtesy RWS Entertainment Group)

Figuring out how to avoid getting cut in a musical theater audition can feel like a mystery. "It's not just about your technique, it's about the whole package of the person," says Justin Bohon, a casting director at Binder Casting, whose clients include The Lion King on Broadway. But how do you present yourself in the best way possible, and avoid making a faux pas that distracts from what's most important—your dancing? Bohon and three other casting directors gave us the scoop on their biggest audition pet peeves.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Tracie Stanfield's company, SynthesisDANCE performing at the 2017 Young Choreographer's Festival (Photo by Jaqi Medlock, courtesy Young Choreographer's Festival)

Whether it's for a gig at school, a community theater production, or just for fun, the first time you choreograph a dance can be both exhilarating and intimidating. The Young Choreographer's Festival is a platform that helps choreographers ages 18-25 gain experience by giving them a platform to present their work. The festival gives the newcomers a chance to grow as artists as they receive feedback from some of the best in the business. We caught up with eight established choreographers, artistic directors, and instructors who will be mentoring at this year's YCF, to find out what mistakes new choreographers should be aware of when they take on their first choreographic project and—how to avoid them.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

We caught up with former Rockette Trina Simon at Showstopper's Myrtle Beach dance convention to get her expert advice on how to work as a professional dancer. Trina's work on Broadway has given her insight into the key things to focus on as a professional dancer looking for jobs and making a name for yourself, whether you are new to the world of professional dance or you have been making your way from one audition to the next for a while.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for Fun
Including, of course, Center Stage (Screenshot via Vimeo)

Dance in movies is a trend as old as time. Movies like The Red Shoes and Singin' in the Rain paved the way for Black Swan and La La Land; dancing stars like Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers led the way for Channing Tatum and Julianne Hough.

Lucky for us, some of Hollywood's most incredible dance scenes have been compiled into this amazing montage, featuring close to 300 films in only seven minutes. So grab the popcorn, cozy on up, and watch the moves that made the movies.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
Unsurprisingly, Season 1 winners Les Twins have had a pretty epic year. (NBC)

"World of Dance" Season 2 is in full swing, introducing us to a new crop of jaw-dropping talents—and reuniting us with a few of the stars of Season 1, including 15-year-old dynamo Eva Igo. But what have our other Season 1 faves (Les Twins! KynTay! Swing Latino!) been up to since their big TV moment? Here's where they are now.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News
The West End revival cast of CATS (courtesy DKC/O&M)

Raise your hand if you grew up watching the classic 1998 film version of CATS repeatedly. Like, until the VHS tape came off its tracks/the DVD was hopelessly scratched. 🖐🖐🖐😻😻😻

Well, fellow Jellicle obsessives, get excited: A new film adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's iconic musical is in the works. And it'll feature brand-spanking-new choreography by Royal Ballet resident choreographer Wayne McGregor. And the search for dancers to fill those famous unitards is basically happening RIGHT NOW. (Paging Georgina Pazcoguin, Eloise Kropp, Ricky Ubeda, and all the other veterans of the recent Broadway revival!)

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
n RWS Entertainment Group Audition (courtesy RWS Entertainment Group)

Figuring out how to avoid getting cut in a musical theater audition can feel like a mystery. "It's not just about your technique, it's about the whole package of the person," says Justin Bohon, a casting director at Binder Casting, whose clients include The Lion King on Broadway. But how do you present yourself in the best way possible, and avoid making a faux pas that distracts from what's most important—your dancing? Bohon and three other casting directors gave us the scoop on their biggest audition pet peeves.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Want to Be on Our Cover?

covermodelsearch-image

Video

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Sponsored