How to Deal with Dance-Related Knee Pain

Thinkstock

Knee pain is, unfortunately, just one of those things that happens when you're a dancer. But how can you be sure that an annoying pinch here or a crunch there isn't something more serious? Dance Spirit turned to Marijeanne Liederbach, PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS—who is also director of the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at NYU Langone, research assistant professor at NYU School of Medicine, and owner of PT Plus in NYC—for a crash course on knee problems.


What It Is

According to Dr. Liederbach, the top five knee problems that plague dancers are patellofemoral pain syndrome (pain or swelling where the kneecap joins the body); meniscus tears (when the two shock-absorbing, wedge-shaped pieces of cartilage between your thighbone and shinbone tear); patellar tendinitis (when the tendon attaching the bottom of your kneecap to the top of your shinbone becomes inflamed); bursitis (inflammation of the bursae, which are fluid-filled sacs cushioning the front of the knee joint); and sprains of the knee ligaments (which are soft tissue structures that protect the knee from potentially injurious forces).

What Causes It

"The knee is the largest joint in the body, and it's subjected to very high forces," Liederbach explains. "Performing a lot of choreo on the floor, landing from jumps, forcing your turnout, even demi-pliés—all of these expose your knees to anywhere from 3 to 12 times your body weight."

How to Deal

When it comes to avoiding knee injuries, Liederbach has one mantra: "Rest isn't bad! In fact, adequate rest between training periods is essential." She stresses the importance of paying attention to your body.

The health of your knees also depends on the strength of your trunk, hips, and ankles, so make sure to give them a little extra love while you cross-train. Liederbach recommends including strengthening moves (like side-lying hip abduction) into your warm-up. "Focusing only on dance-specific conditioning causes you to neglect your body as a whole instrument, and you'll inevitably become weaker in certain areas."

Warm up with side-lying hip abductions (Thinkstock)

Liederbach stresses that it's crucial to consult your doctor if nagging pain doesn't resolve on its own in two to three days. "Don't write things off. Many times, these musculoskeletal knee complaints simmer and then blow up."


A version of this story appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Your Aches And Pains Addressed: Knee Problems."

Health & Body
Expressions Dance Alliance president Liz Ladley addressing the company (Sabrina Thadani, courtesy Liz Ladley)

Do you dream of running your student dance company or becoming captain of your dance team? Are you a triple threat eager to direct your school's next musical? If you have big ideas and the drive to make them a reality—as well as a strong rapport with your fellow performers—you might be a good fit for a leadership role. But even the most dedicated dancers can stumble during the transition from peer to peer leader. Try these tips to make the most of your tenure at the top.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Team
Rochelle Mendoza-Axle, Courtesy Stiskin

In today's dance world, versatility is key. It's not enough to be a master of one style—even when they specialize in one area, dancers are frequently asked to fuse multiple genres, or step out of their comfort zone for specific projects. With their wide variety of summer programs, Joffrey Ballet School aims to prepare dancers for the demands of a professional career. We asked five faculty members to share how they do this:

Keep Reading Show less
Sponsored by Joffrey Ballet School

Right now, it seems like the entire world is equal parts obsessed with and thoroughly creeped out by Jordan Peele's Us, the horror film about devilish doppelgängers that's currently rated 94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

But while the normal human reaction to Us is to hide under the covers for approximately 17 years, "Step Up: High Water" superhero Kendra "K.O." Oyesanya's reaction was to make a totally bananas dance video.

Keep Reading Show less
Dance Videos

Video

mailbox

Get Dance Spirit in your inbox

Giveaways