Physical Therapy For Dancers - Balance Chicago Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy For Dancers

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As a performing artist, you know that dance is so much more than an exercise routine. It is, first and foremost, something that ignites your soul, makes your heart sing, and gives your brain perspective on the world around you. This makes it extremely disheartening when you are stuck sitting in the front of the dance studio watching your colleagues dance their hearts out in rehearsal as you press an ice pack against your aching ankle. Not only are you losing an outlet for physical activity, but also a way to support your mental and emotional well-being. 


Unfortunately, this scenario is all too familiar as injuries are very common among performing artists. Studies looking at professional ballet and modern dancers have demonstrated an injury rate of 67 to 95% per year (Dick et al 2013). The dancers studied had between 1.7 to 6.7 injuries per year on average. With that being said, there are things that you can do to help protect your instrument and keep you prancing across the floor. Our mission at Balance Chicago is to help educate you on proper techniques to help prevent injuries.

What are common causes of injuries for dancers?

Hurt Dancer

An excellent place to start is to explore what commonly leads to injuries for dancers. Various factors have been identified (Liederbach). These include environmental factors such as dancing on a hard or raked stage and anatomical factors such as having a high arch or flat foot. Training errors also have been found to play a role. This includes insufficient warm-up or inadequate rest breaks. The factor that the dancer has the most control over addressing, however, is faulty technique. Spending time analyzing and addressing your faulty technique can help prevent injury and keep you on your toes.

Focus on the basics.

When checking your technique, it is easiest to start with the basics. Start in first position parallel and look at your posture from the front and then from the side. Do a scan from head to toe. What do you see? Identifying all of the subtle variations from normal takes a skilled eye, but there are a few big picture items that you can see. Perform a demi plie in this position. Again, look from the front and from the side. There are a few common errors that if addressed have a large impact on protecting your body from injury.

Why a neutral pelvis position is important when you plie.

One common error that can be seen when checking your posture from the side is poor pelvic position. Is your pelvis in a neutral position? Does it remain in this neutral position as you plie? It is common to see dancers either “tuck” their pelvis or stick their bottom out. 


If you find that you are unsure of what a neutral pelvic position is or that you have a difficult time maintaining this position, try the following:

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. 
  • Rock your hips all the way forward, so your low back arches off of the floor 
  • Then rock back, so your low back presses on the floor. 
  • Repeat this motion back and forth. 
  • Slowly settle into the middle. This is a neutral pelvic position. 

Working off of a neutral pelvic position will help to protect your low back from injury.

Watch your knees while you plie.

Another common technical error is allowing your knees to fall inward when you plie. Try the following steps to check if you are making this mistake:

  • Ask someone to take a video of you while you plie. The best perspective is from the front to see if your knee is in the correct position. 
  • When you plie, your knees should track over your second toe. (there are exceptions to this rule.) 
  • If your knees are falling inwards and tracking to the inside of your big toe, you are at an increased risk for knee, ankle, and foot pain.

Strengthen your hips.

Sometimes your form is incorrect due to weakness in your hip muscles. To address this weakness, a good place to start is with an exercise called clamshells. See an example below:

  • Lay on your side with your knees bent to 90 degrees. 
  • Keep your feet together, lift your top knee towards the ceiling. 
  • Make sure your top hip stays stacked directly over your bottom hip and does not fall forward or backward. 
  • You should feel the muscle on the side of the top hip fatigue. Work up to thirty repetitions. 

Strengthening your hips can help make it easier to maintain a proper technique with plie. 

You can be a lifelong dancer if you focus on form and safety.

With the countless hours you as a dancer spend in the studio, it is essential to take the time to make sure you are using good form. Because you repeat similar motions throughout class and rehearsal, if your form is off even the slightest, it opens up the opportunity for injury. Analyzing your form is no small feat. If you have questions or concerns, we are here at Balance Chicago to help evaluate your form and provide you with tools to help reduce the chance of getting injured. We want to keep you dancing for a long time.

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