Have you sustained a dance or performing arts-related injury that has made it painful for you to continue doing what you love? Our dance medicine specialists are skilled in assessing and treating injuries that are unique to dancers, performing artists and hypermobile athletes such as gymnasts, figure skaters, aerialists, or divers.

Several of our therapists were dancers, gymnasts, or performers themselves, and they understand the significance of missing time away from your sport or craft, particularly if it’s a large source of income for you, not to mention the mental toll it can take when you’re unable to perform the way you had hoped. 

Our Columbia office is also equipped with a full-size dance and yoga studio that includes a sprung floor, ballet barre and mirrors. Why, you might ask? We feel that this is the best way to assess a dancer or performing artist – that is, in the type of movement space that is most familiar to them when they have to practice or perform their craft. Once rehab is close to completion, we can also use the space to program real-world dance combinations and movements that may have previously been provocative for their pain, as part of the dancer’s final return to sport plan.

Contact our Columbia and Lake City, SC locations and let us help you get back to doing what you love – performing!

Common dancing and performing arts injuries

Dancers, gymnasts, aerial performers, and figure skaters require artistry and grace, in addition to unique athletic skills and qualities unlike those of most other sports activities in order to perform their craft well. Because of this, these athletes will often encounter unique injuries that require a different approach to treatment. Many will experience the majority of their injuries in the ankle/foot, hip, knee and low back, and these are most often the result of chronic overuse.

However, with the advent of more complex skill requirements in gymnastics and aerial arts as well as newer styles of dance, such as breaking, becoming more mainstream, dance injury to the upper body is becoming common as well. Are you rehearsing, practicing, or performing through pain right now? If so, one of our dance and performing arts medicine specialists can take you through a comprehensive rehab program to get you back in class and on-stage again, pain-free! For more information, Contact Us today at our Columbia, SC or Lake City, SC location.

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There are a variety of different types of injuries that can occur for a number of reasons when it comes to dancers. Those who practice a more upbeat, quicker style of dancing can be more susceptible to sudden injuries. In addition, fatigue plays a large role in all dance and performing arts or sporting activities and increased risk for injury.

Whatever style of dancing or performing yours may be, rest assured that a physical therapist at ProMotion Rehab and Sports Medicine will be able to help if you’ve been hurt!


Snapping hip

Snapping hip syndrome, also known as “dancer’s hip”, is very common in dancers and other hypermobile (excessively mobile or flexible) athletes. Many dancers with this condition notice their hips even will make audible snapping noises when they stand up after being seated for a while, or bend over to pick something up. They can often reproduce the snapping sound on demand – knowing the exact type of movement that causes the snap to occur. There are three types of snapping hip conditions: internal extra-articular (outside the joint) snapping hip, external extra-articular snapping hip, and internal intra-articular (inside the joint) snapping hip. Extra-articular snapping hip is caused by tendons of the psoas muscle or IT Band rolling over a bony prominence and often develops over time, while internal snapping hip can be caused due to a specific injury. Many dancers who have snapping hip never experience pain, but for those who do, physical therapy with a dance medicine specialist is one of the most effective options for addressing the underlying cause of the pain.

Sprains and strains

Sprains and strains are extremely common injuries for dancers and athletes in general.  Sprains occur when the ligaments of a joint (ankle, knee, wrist, elbow, etc.) are over-stretched. Sprains can be mild, resulting in just a few minutes or hours of discomfort, or may be more severe, requiring physiotherapy or in a few cases, even surgery.

A strain occurs when the tendons that link a muscle to the bone are over-stretched or partially torn. Sprains and strains can take a long time to resolve, due to the nature of soft tissue healing, which normally occurs over an 8-12 week time period following injury. In spite of this, a solid rehabilitation program can significantly improve your progress with recovery as well as athletic or dance performance if you can stay diligent with your exercises until the injury has fully healed. If you try to return to your full activity without a thorough assessment of your injury and appropriate rehab plan, oftentimes athletes and dancers will find that they set themselves back even further or re-injure the same area and have to start over with the recovery process. It’s important to stay patient and trust in your body’s natural ability to heal while engaging in a physical therapist-directed rehabilitation strategy.

Tendonitis or tendon overuse injuries

Tendon overuse injuries are extremely common in dancers and performing artists, are the result of overuse or overtraining, and can occur in multiple body regions. Tendon issues can include Achilles tendonitis, posterior tibial tendonitis, flexor hallucis longus (FHL) tendonitis, patellar tendonitis, hip flexor or gluteal tendonitis, or hamstring tendonitis, in addition to any tendon issues of the upper body in the shoulders, elbows, wrist or hand. Tendon overuse is often found in our patients who practice ballet, jazz, contemporary, hip hop, or other styles that require a lot of repetitive movements and jumping in dance. It can also occur during a growth spurt in younger dancers, as the bones grow more quickly than the nearby muscles attaching to those bones. 

Most tendon issues are addressed over time through progressive loading of the tendon in order to facilitate a faster healing process on a cellular level. Due to the need to load the tendon, sometimes this can involve mild discomfort when completing certain exercises; this is actually recommended by the most current evidence for all tendon overuse issues, in order to load the tendon and promote healing appropriately. Our dance and performing arts medicine specialists can help you determine what is best for your individual condition and presentation. We never want pain to be excessive, but in the case of any tendon issue, pushing through mild discomfort is not a bad thing. 

Ankle Impingement

Ankle impingement is a lesser talked about condition, but is common in dancers who spend a lot of hours of training in releve, eleve and/or forced arch, i.e. in a position in which the foot and ankle are pointed fully downward. It can occur due to excess bony growth on the back of the heel or as a result of soft tissue abutment in the back of the heel when the foot and ankle are fully pointed. Your dance and performing arts medicine specialist can assist with determining whether the cause is bony or soft-tissue related or both. You may also need some additional imaging studies to confirm or disconfirm a bony block to your ankle movement.

This condition is often treated with rehabilitation initially. If pain remains persistent and severe, injection or surgery to remove the excess bone may be required. During rehabilitation, a lot of focus is on assessing and addressing any alignment or technique issues that may be contributing to the impingement, as well as strengthening the muscles of the foot, lower leg, and knee or hip. Strengthening from the bottom to the top can be crucial in re-training the body to move efficiently and effectively with the best possible alignment and form, thus helping to remove the excess stress on your tissues locally. 

Hip Impingement and Labral injury

Hip impingement and labral injury or labral tears may be recent buzz words you’ve heard if you’ve ever experienced hip pain. Due to the increased flexibility available to many performing artists, dancers and hypermobile athletes, sometimes this can predispose an athlete to more joint-related injuries around the hip. Impingement and labral injury can be a little interchangeable and thus can be confusing as they can cause similar symptoms. 

With a labral injury needing potential further assessment, there is an audible clicking sound that can be reproduced by an athlete or dancer with one or a few specific movements of the leg or body. There can also be a subjective feeling of catching in the joint and pain with certain directions of movement, particularly if turning the leg inward and/or bringing it across the body.

Impingement can occur as the result of a bony abnormality that decreases the congruency of the joint or it can be due to a soft tissue injury such as a labral tear (also sometimes referred to as internal intra-articular snapping hip) or external snapping hip of the psoas tendon over the femur. The bony abnormality is typically call femoral acetabular impingement, while a soft tissue cause may be more generally referred to as hip impingement or snapping hip. 

In spite of the confusing word options, the good news is that oftentimes these issues can be treated effectively with rehabilitation rather than more invasive procedures. In some rare cases of persistent and severe pain, surgery may be needed. Either way, the rehab process is extremely important for returning to performance-ready status.  Our dance and performing arts medicine specialists at ProMotion can help get you back to where you need to be. 

Chronic ankle instability (CAI)

Another lesser known dance and performing-arts related condition is called chronic ankle instability or CAI. CAI results from a history of ankle sprains that causes a cumulative over-stretching and re-injury of the ligaments around the ankle over time. When a ligament is sprained, the ligament itself does not heal as well as a muscle or bone does and the resulting scar tissue that’s laid down following injury has different stretch properties than the “native” tissue we’re all born with. This is a normal healing response, but because of this, if you sprain an ankle multiple times over the course of months or years, it can result in an ankle that subjectively feels less stable to the athlete or performer (as if it will give way on you at random) and upon evaluation will often exhibit balance, strength, and control challenges when put to the test.

In many cases, CAI is addressed very similarly to how a new ankle sprain would be addressed. Once pain is relatively well-managed, much of the rehabilitation process focuses on improving strength, balance, control and stability around the joint. Keep in mind this can take a lot longer to recover from compared to a simple ankle sprain and often requires long-standing commitment to a home exercise program or incorporation of rehab principles into the performer’s general conditioning or cross-training plan, in order to prevent future re-injury. Our dance and performing arts medicine specialists can create a custom rehab and preventative plan for your specific needs if you are suffering from chronic ankle sprains and instability.

Back Pain

Back pain is extremely common worldwide and is no stranger to many dancers, performing artists and hypermobile athletes. In many cases for these types of athletes, back pain is most often related to overuse or over-training. During growth spurts and/or periods of increased training, injuries like this can pop up more readily as well. Our dance medicine specialists have a variety of treatment methods they can employ to address low and/or upper back pain for our performers. 

Because back pain in general is very heterogeneous in nature, there is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and our clinicians always perform a detailed assessment to determine the likely cause(s) of your back pain before administering a treatment plan. Fortunately, back pain responds extremely quickly to physical therapy treatments in a lot of cases, but if it stems from a wider fatigue and endurance issue or has been ongoing for a long time, it can take several months to resolve fully and often requires a variety of treatment techniques to foster a full recovery. These often include a combination of manual techniques and stretching, strength and motor control exercises, movement pattern re-training when needed and additional modalities to facilitate faster recovery and pain relief at times. 

Contact one of our dance and performing arts medicine specialists today to learn more about how we can help you get rid of your back pain for good.

Upper Body Injury

In recent decades, upper body injuries in dancers and performers have become more commonplace due to the evolution of new dance styles, such as breaking, more risk-oriented dance movements, such as big jumps or lifts and transfers of bodyweight from feet to hands or vice versa, and the increased popularity of aerial dance and circus tour work. 

Due to the wide variety of movement possibilities, the need to move around a dark stage or theater, and make quick costume changes, the potential for upper body injuries is always there during any sort of performance or rehearsal. These injuries can range from overuse injuries similar to those previously discussed to acute, traumatic injuries due to an unexpected/unplanned fall, poor body mechanics related to fatigue, or any other mishap that might occur during rehearsal or a show. While companies and troupes do whatever they can to maintain a safe performance environment, sometimes things happen that are beyond our control. 

If you’ve suffered from any sort of traumatic injury or are dealing with chronic pain in your shoulders, elbows, wrists or hands, contact ProMotion to speak with one of our dance medicine specialists about how we can help you heal.   

How can dance and performing arts medicine physical therapy help me recover?

Our ProMotion Rehab and Sports Medicine therapists in Columbia and Lake City, SC recognize and appreciate how important being able to dance or perform is to our patients. Our ultimate goal for you is to help you get back to dance class, rehearsal and the stage without pain holding you back. Our Columbia, SC and Lake City, SC clinics offer a variety of therapeutic methods to help you recover from injury and resolve pain.

When you arrive for your initial consultation at ProMotion Rehab and Sports Medicine, your physical therapist will ask you a series of questions regarding the location of your injury, your symptoms, the frequency/severity of pain that you are experiencing, and take a deep dive into the type of dancing or training you need to return to and what specific dance movements are not possible right now because of your pain. 

From there, your Columbia and Lake City, SC physical therapists will conduct a physical examination to determine your current limitations and create a treatment plan with you. Your plan will include a combination of manual therapy, pain-relieving modalities where indicated, as well as sport-specific exercises and stretches to help you regain your strength and heal the affected area as quickly as possible. 

Your physical therapist can also assist with ensuring proper form and technique in our state-of-the-art dance studio with sprung floor, for your specific dance style(s), as well as helpful adjunctive warm-up/cool down or cross-training exercises to reduce the risk of injuries in the future. 

Contact us today!

Have you been injured while dancing? Contact ProMotion Rehab and Sports Medicine to learn more about our skilled staff and how therapy can help you get back into show business.