Utilizing Turnout without tucking under

Greetings, everyone, and Happy New Year! May 2009 be the best year ever!

I’m wondering if you can help me with turnout. I understand the concept of turning out using the small rotator muscles underneath the buttocks, however every time I engage them, I can’t help but to engage my gluteus maximus also – which doesn’t benefit turnout. If I let go of my core I can relax these bigger muscles while maintaining turnout, so I’m wondering if this is an issue with how I hold my center more than turnout?
Thanks!
Emily

Congratulations for knowing that the turnout muscles are smaller and deeper – underneath the bigger gluteal muscles!

Whether or not the gluteal muscles contract depends on what the movement you are doing. The gluteus maximus is a powerful hip extensor – it takes the leg backwards and stabilizes the pelvis on the legs. They actually assist your turnout when you take the leg behind in a back tendu. If you are standing in first position and do a cambre forward and backwards, the gluteals will contract strongly when you cambre back.

When you are doing a demi plie, though, the gluteal muscle should not be contracting strongly because you are flexing the hip. If you contract the gluteal muscles when you are doing a demi plie, you will tend to tuck the pelvis under – not a desirable action.

So turning on the gluteals is almost automatic when you take the leg behind you – but how do you turn them off when you are moving your leg to the front or during the descent of a demi or grande plié?

One of my favorite exercises for teaching dancers where their turnout muscles are is to have them lie on their side with their legs bent with their knees forward and feet in alignment with their hips. Placing one hand on the top buttock area, slowly open your top knee like a clamshell keeping your feet together. If you do a set of 20 lifts (remembering to slowly close the knees together) you’ll definitely feel the deeper rotator muscles working, while being able to monitor whether or not the gluteal muscles are contracting.

Another good way to practice this patterning between the gluteals and the rotator muscles is to start by standing in parallel with one foot in coupe. You’ll then stay standing in parallel and slowly turn out and open the gesture leg to the side.

It is very easy to monitor whether or not you are keeping your pelvis square through the weight on your standing foot. Keep the 3 points of the feet firmly planted on the ground and don’t let your foot ‘roll in’ or pronate!

In time, you will have changed the pattern of always gripping the gluteals – and – your range of motion and ease of movement will be better!

Until next time,

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Hyperextension and Pregnancy tips

Announcements!

I now have a facebook account – and I invite you all to become my friend! If you have an account just search for me…. Deborah Vogel. (there are actually 10 women on facebook with my name – but I’m the only one holding a spine:)

Also…. I’m uploading videos to YouTube! You can subscribe to my Dance Smart Channel at
http://www.youtube.com/user/dancesmart Or… just search Deborah Vogel and you’ll find me too!

Onto the questions….

I returned to ballet about 5 years ago. I have been getting some pain in my knees which was diagnosed by my physiotherapist as anterior knee pain caused by weak thigh muscles.

A new teacher at my ballet school said that my hyperextended knees would also be causing the problem. I am working with her to try and stand straight without locking the knees but I am having problems trying stand properly on one leg while working the other.

Any help that you give would be much appreciated as all my teachers have differing opinions on hyperextended knees.

I am now 28 and also suffer from pronation.

Thank you

Kirsty

The three issues you mentioned, weak thigh muscles, hyperextended knees and pronated feet all go together. The good thing is as you start to address all 3 of them at the same time your knees should start to quickly feel better!

I’m assuming your physiotherapist is giving you quad strengthening exercises – so I won’t talk about them except to say that a single leg demi plie is a wonderful strengthener! (As long as your knees and feet are in alignment)

My opinion on hyperextension is that it creates a beautiful line in the air – and – needs to be controlled on the ground. When the knees go back into hyperextension the thighbone rotates inward, and the feet tend to pronate. This definitely opposes your goal of maintaining good turnout!

It’s not easy to change a chronic habit of hyperextending the knees – but it is well worth it! You can monitor your knees from your feet, making sure the weight is equal on the 3 points of the feet. You can also catch yourself dropping into your legs (as most dancers with hyperextended knees are rather loosey-goosey) and put your hand on top of your head and press into your hand, lengthening your spine. Practice balancing on one leg (not in hyperextension) to help your nervous system learn where the center of the joints are. It will take some time to change the habit – but I have seen many dancers do it!

Good luck!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~**~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I am just into my pregnancy and work as a contemporary dancer and physical theatre performer. I hope not to stop my work and performances until my 7th or 8th month. However I know that I will have to modify my work and I’m game for that. I can’t seem to find a good resource — a book, a detailed article, anything! — that explains what activity should be modified and how to modify the activity as time goes on. Most of what I’ve found is very
general or specific to elite athletes like runners. Do you have any recommendations?

Sincerely
Lucy

I don’t know of any specific resources to send you to, Lucy, so I will give you my personal opinion after having 3 of my own – and counseling a few friends through their pregnancy and births.

chair-psoasThe first is – your iliopsoas is going to take a beating with being pregnant. As the baby gets bigger, the pull on your lower back is significant. The one stretch you cannot stop doing is some form of iliopsoas stretching. (I actually have a youtube video on 3 different ways to stretch your psoas) The one stretch that I don’t have on this video is a sitting stretch – but here it is on the right.

Ballwork all around the pelvis will be very useful for keeping the muscles looser. As your belly pulls the pelvis into a forward tilt, the abdominals contract to counter that and the gluteals also tend to contract more than normal to keep your pelvis upright.

Continuing dancing will help keep the abdominals in good shape – and stretching and ballwork will definitely help the gluts!

Those are my primary tips for a healthy pregnancy. It goes without saying that listening to your body is key – and – it is an amazing process that you are engaged with. Typically, the pregnant dancers I’ve known have, for the most part, had easier pregnancies than non-dancers. They danced as long as they were comfortable – and easily modified their movement. (for example, rolling down the spine becomes almost impossible – so do hamstring stretches standing with your leg on a chair instead) I truly enjoyed all 3 of my pregnancies. Best wishes and…

Congratulations!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Buttock Pain

Greetings!

I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving holidays were wonderful…. I am grateful to have all of you in my dance community!

The new website is nearly done…. hoping by the next newsletter it will be up and running!

Here’s the question of the week…

My daughter is 14 and has been dancing for 10 years. She started a very intense dance schedule in June. She was dancing nearly 30 hrs, a week for the summer along with a 4 day intensive. She cut back to 21 hrs a week when school started and has been doing very well growing in her dance ability until now. She takes 3 ballet classes, 3 adv. pointe classes (all 1 1/2 hrs each), 4 jazz classes, 3 lyrical classes, salsa and conditioning. She recently started having pain in her right hip where the sciatic nerve runs. A teacher of her is a certified physical therapist. She felt around and noticed the nerves on both sides were moving and the muscles underneath were knotted up. The pain stayed right there and didn’t travel so we ruled out sciatica. We have iced and heated the area for a week and rubbed out as many knots as possible. It seemed to help and then she went to a jazz class and over did it and now we can’t get the pain to stop for very long. I can feel the knots and deep rubbing seems to help but only for a while. Once she wakes in the morning it starts all over again. What if anything else can we do for it? I know rest is needed but do you have any other advice for knotted muscles? Thank you for your time, Evie

I’m glad you have a physical therapist on board to help you out. I’m wondering whether your daughter could have something called piriformis syndrome. It’s a condition where the piriformis muscles which is the largest of the 6 deep muscles that are the ‘turnout’ muscles irritates the sciatic nerve. Some people only feel pain in the buttock area (this could be your daughter) and sometimes it goes PyrAnatA108down into the leg,
which is referred pain from the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve typically passes underneath the piriformis muscle, but in about 15% of the population the nerve goes through the piriformis muscle increasing it’s potential for trouble.

When dancers overwork the piriformis and the other deep rotators as they are trying to achieve more turnout then can create excessive tension in this muscle which presses or compresses on the nerve creating pain depending on where the nerve lies in relationship to the piriformis muscle.

For right now, let’s treat your daughter as if she has really irritated both the sciatic nerve and that the turnout muscles are knotted up and very unhappy!

The massage you are doing is good for releasing tension in the gluteal area, as well as using a pinkie ball or a tennis ball to put between the buttock and the wall to do self-massage. With piriformis syndrome I personally would not use any heat – only ice on the area, and would have her ice as much as possible. This might be a time where a few days of an anti inflammatory such as ibuprofen could be helpful. The next thing I would do is to stretch, stretch, stretch, the turnout muscles to help them release from their painful spasm.

seatedhipstretchShe can do this in a variety of ways. To the left is a sitting chair stretch that is very useful as she can easily do a stretch or two while in school!

Another way would be the traditional sitting on the floor with the legs folded and rounding down over the legs, gently moving from side to side to feel the stretch at the back of the buttocks where her pain is. Make sure to switch which leg is in front as that will change the focus of the stretch to the other side.

Rest is the final part of the treatment program. It doesn’t mean that she would have to take off from all of her dance classes – but it does mean she needs to significantly reduce the amount of classes that she is taking. Her first goal is to be pain free when she wakes up in the morning. If her pain is reduced by pulling back – or totally off classes, then she can slowly bring more classes back in. Working through the pain at this point will most likely increase the length of time for healing – and make for some poor muscle habits as she is trying to engage and work the turnout muscles while they are tender and tight.

Best wishes for a speedy recovery!

Deborah

 

Développés

Greetings!
I’m excited to announce that TheBodySeries.com is going through a complete overhaul! I will let you know as soon as it is complete and also let you know of the holiday specials I’ll be running to celebrate the new site. Stay tuned!

Onto the question of the week

Hi there!
I was hoping you might be able to help me. I am a professional dancer and for several years I have been struggling with développés, especially when executing this step to the side. I have good range of movement in my hip and I can flex my knee and raise it to a point where my knee is almost touching my shoulder. However, I cannot maintain the height of my thigh as I try to extend the leg. My thigh and consequently the working leg, drops significantly. When shouldering my leg I can let go and hold the working leg at a good height, however I cannot maintain the height of my thigh as I reach the crucial last moment of extension in the développé. I am really hoping you can help me identify why my extensions are not as high as they might be. Perhaps I have a weakness in the iliopsoas muscles or perhaps it is my quadriceps or hamstrings which need strengthening? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

With Thanks, Beth

Great question, Beth – one a lot of dancers will be interested in!

When doing a développé to the front or side the hip flexors are the prime movers meaning they are the ones most responsible for getting the leg up, and the hamstrings are the antagonist muscles, meaning they need to lengthen to allow the leg to go up higher. You are a smart dancer to ponder both sides of the joint! So often dancers and teachers will only look at one side of the joint, such as the hamstring flexibility when trying to get the legs up higher.

It sounds like your hamstrings are flexible enough as you can bring your leg easily up to the desired position with your hand, then release your hand and then hold it there. I’m less inclined to think there is a challenge with the hamstring flexibility.

This brings us to the front of the joint to the hip flexors. In higher extensions such as développés the iliopsoas is of primary importance at the beginning of the movement and then at the end. The strength of the iliopsoas will help hold your thigh up while the quadriceps straighten the knee.

Normally, dancers are pretty strong with their quads – so let’s have you try strengthening the iliopsoas muscle in the upper ranges of extension. I learned this exercise from Karen Clippinger, a marvelous teacher and anatomist.

Start by sitting with your left leg bent in front of you with the foot on the ground and your right leg extended straight on the floor in front of you. You are resting slightly on your hands, which are behind you. You may be slightly on the backside of your pelvis, but you are focusing on stabilizing your pelvis and not allowing yourself to roll onto the sacrum while doing this exercise. Okay – now lift your right leg up, keeping it straight, as far as is easy. You might get to the level of the other knee or you may not.

Once you have lifted it, slightly bend the right knee, bringing your thigh closer to your chest (remember – without rolling back on your pelvis!) Then once you have brought it slightly closer straighten the knee slowly (again – without rolling back on your pelvis!) and then lower the right leg to the starting position on the ground. Repeat several times – and then do the other side. It may take some days or weeks to feel as if you can significantly bring the knee closer to the chest – but you will see a difference in your extensions if you practice this.

You can also do this exercise in turnout. Even though you are keeping the legs in front this new found strength will carry over to your side développés. To make it a bit harder you could put a theraband around both knees giving yourself some resistance as you bring the thigh towards your chest and/or you could put a low level weight around your thigh – just above or below your knee – do not put the ankle weight at the ankle!

Let me know how your extensions improve!

Warmest regards,

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”


Hamstrings & Sore Sits-bones

Greetings!
I haven’t gotten to answer any questions over the past few weeks as I’ve had some special events such as spending time with Lisa Howell, the wonderful Australian dance physiotherapist who authored the Perfect Pointe Book and the Perfect Pointe System! Lisa and I then went off to the IADMS Conference (International Association for Dance Medicine and Science) where I got to meet – some of you!

I so appreciate learning and being inspired by all the good work that is happening in dance medicine from around the world. Thanks to all who stopped to introduce themselves to me!

Onto the questions of the week….

My question concerns soreness around the sits bones during lunges and straddle split stretches (both the kind where you face a wall and push yourself closer and where you lie on your back perpendicular to the wall with your legs dropped open). I’m used to feeling sore there when working on hamstring flexibility, but never before with other stretches. It’s especially odd with the lunges, because the soreness is in the buttock of the BACK leg. Rotating the leg inward seems to help a little. Do you have any ideas what may be going on here?

Your turnout muscles also attach in the area of the sits bone. You gave a good clue that rotating the leg inward helps relieve the soreness some. Why don’t you try putting a pinkie ball or a tennis ball underneath your pelvis and rolling lightly around. Pay special attention to the sitting bone area. After gently massaging that area do your stretching and see if there is any difference in your response. Let me know if that helps!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Another dancer writes….

If the hamstrings are tight where might a dancer feel discomfort?

We talked about this in class this morning. It seems logical that if the hamstrings are tight you would feel that tightness at one of the ends of the muscle. Either around the sits bone like the above question – or at the knee. But interestingly, often hamstring tightness and problems show up as lower back aches, and lower back problems will be felt in the hamstrings.

seated_hamstring_nThink about a dancer who has tight hamstrings and is sitting on the floor with one or both of the legs in front of them. As you can see from this picture, the hamstrings aren’t being targeted very effectively – rather the back is taking the brunt of the stretch.

Try using the pinkie ball on your back and pelvis. I really should buy stock in a pinkie ball company! – just teasing!

Sometimes releasing muscular tension above or below the hamstrings will help. I have students spend about a minute rolling a pinkie ball underneath one foot. They are massaging the plantar fascia of the foot. Then they go to touch their hands towards the floor and generally at least 50% of them will feel the hamstring loosened up on the side they used the pinkie ball. They didn’t stretch the hamstring directly – and it still benefited!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I promise I’ll get back on track with the newsletter. I’m working on updating the website and along with that bringing some new information to you! Stay tune for more info in future newsletters!

Warm regards,
Deborah

Painful Knees

Question of the week…
I am 13 yrs. old and i have been having problems with my knee. I have pain under my knee cap and sometimes it get to the point where it hurts to walk. (It also hurts to walk up and down stairs and especially if I go into a deep plié or a grand plié) I am a very very active dancer and I would like to know what is wrong with my knee. I just went to the doctor two days ago and they said I should stay take about 5 days off of dance and take the anti-inflammatory medicine they prescribed for me, but as the days go on it doesn’t seem to be getting any better. I really hope you can tell me a way to help heal my knee so I can start dancing again. Thank you so much for all your help.
MARIAH

Dear Mariah,
I would first say to follow your doctor’s advice, and take the time off from dance – and take the medication to reduce any swelling. If you are having pain while walking or climbing stairs, you certainly shouldn’t be in dance class until you can do daily movements without pain.

That being said, once your pain is better you’ve got to figure out why it started hurting. Have you gone through a recent growth spurt? Bones grow faster than muscles, and knees are often a place that feel those ‘growing pains’.

Was their a change in activity prior to your knee hurting? Did you start a new technique class, or start with a new teacher, or just come off summer vacation? It can be a real shock to the body when you are off from dance for a while, and then jump in and start taking daily classes.

What’s your turnout like? Is the knee that hurts on the side that has less turnout? Often our turnout is unequal and we compensate by rotating the foot out farther on the side that has less turnout at the hip, and then we put a twist at the knee.

It’s also possible that a piece of cartilage got irritated for some reason that will remain unknown – and – by taking care of it, you will be back to dancing in no time at all. Best wishes for a speedy recovery. Continue to ice, rest it, and follow your doctor’s suggestions. It’s possible that he will put you in physical therapy next so you will be guided in correcting any imbalances of muscle strength and flexibility.

Creating Strong Foot Muscles

Hello!
Anyone besides me feeling the fast descent into fall? I remind myself to enjoy every moment of the sun and warmth during this busy time. I have a request. When I was recently in New York at the Dance Teacher Summer Conference (great workshops:) there were a few teachers who said they found good online sources for pinkie balls. If you have a source, or a website where you have found the pinkie balls – will you email me? I will post them in an upcoming newsletter. Sometimes they are hard to find – and since I’m one of the lucky ones whose local store carries them – I need your help to find out where you are purchasing them!

Onto the question of the week……

My name is Yekta, 22, and I’m a sociology student at the university of Toronto in Canada. I’m really interested in dance and I did Persian dance and ballet when I was in Elementary school. I restarted my ballet at the university from May. I have very good dance instructor because she really understood my hyper mobility particularly my hyper extended knees and she really does not push me to do lots of work. She gave me some kinds of exercises to strengthen my muscles, because, I have lots of problems in maintaining my balance in passe, arabesque and this kind of things although I’m very good at pointing my feet. I want to get your hints for making my feet muscles strong in order to maintain my balance well and less painfully. What shall I do right now? Regards, Yekta

You bring up a good point that sometimes dancers with extreme flexibility have to work harder in order to stabilize their movement. My suggestion to you would be to begin doing a lot of balance exercises. You will see definite improvement in both your balance and alignment.

bThe first exercise is a simple one – whenever standing in one place for a minute or so, lift up one foot and balance. Standing at the bathroom sink brushing your teeth, and waiting in line at the bank are examples of when you can get a quick practice session in. Make sure that when you are standing on one leg you are NOT hyperextending. I realize that it will feel as if you are standing with a slightly bent leg, but you want to make sure your hip, knee and ankle are in alignment. Standing and balancing will also strengthen some of the weaker muscles around the knee and ankle.

Then take your shoes off and try standing on your bed or a sofa cushion placed on the floor and toss a small ball between your hands for up to 3 minutes. If you don’t have a ball available do port de bras, including head movement. Standing on one leg and turning your head right and left will be hugely challenging for many people.

If you want to focus on improving strength as well as balance, practice doing small demi plies on one leg! These are baby demi plies – smaller than your normal demi plié. You should not feel any strain at your knees while doing them. If you do feel strain it means you are not in alignment. Always monitor your feet to make sure the weight is even between the pads of the big toe, little toe and heel.

Good luck!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Bowed legs

Quick announcement: I’ll be in NYC for the Dance Teachers Summer Conference sponsored by Dance Teacher Magazine and MacFadden Performing Arts Media. I hope to see many of my loyal readers! The subject of my two classes will be, Conditioning the Body for Jumps and 10 Tips Towards Keeping Teachers in Top Shape.

Hope to see you August 9-11!

I have read lot about bow legged issues in ballet, seeing as how I have them myself. Only it seems I was not only born with bowlegs, but my feet naturally turn out at the ankle. (My mother has told me stories of being told to massage my feet and ankles so that they will eventually correct themselves) It leads to awkward moments when I am fussed at for not placing my weight into the correct spot. (I tend to lean out towards my pinky toe both in basic walking and in ballet)

I have tried the ankle circles with the theraband, the relevés on both one foot, and both feet. I am missing something?

Thank you,
Krystal

Bowlegs are a structural challenge versus a muscular one. It is not at all uncommon to have a dancer with bowlegs who also turns out at the ankle. That is a logical compensation the body creates to put the feet flat on the ground. As you noted, otherwise bowlegged dancers have a tendency to supinate, or lean out towards your pinky toe in walking.

(note that the right leg in the photo looks as if it is either slightly longer or more hyperextended than the left. Also note that the knees are not facing the same direction as the feet. The feet are in parallel, and the knees are turned in)

Having bowed legs does not mean you can’t be a dancer – but there are a few things I want to draw your attention to. The first is making sure you are not hyperextending your knees while standing. You didn’t say whether what your joint flexibility is –but as we have discussed in previous newsletters, when you allow the knees to move into hyperextension, the thigh bone rotates inward, and the knees move apart – effectively creating bowlegs. In fact I have worked with dancers who thought they had bowlegs – but when their legs were in neutral position and straight had the hip, knee and ankle in alignment. It was only when they pushed into their hyperextension they looked like they were bowlegged. I don’t think this is the case with you as your mother and docs were aware of your leg alignment from an early age.

The second is to focus your turnout as efficiently as you can at the hip rather than relying on the turnout created by the feet. This will help prevent foot, ankle and knee strain. You have more turnout at your feet, probably because of tibial torsion. This again is a structural issue where the shin bone rotates over time, while growing, in response to the foot’s desire to be flat on the ground.
Dancers who have external tibial torsion as you do, can ‘t line up their knees and feet well. If you try and pull your knees out to line up with your feet it shifts you to the outside of your foot – and creates strain at the outside of the thigh.

As always, I would encourage you to stay focused on where your weight is on your feet. Keep it as even as possible between the three points of the foot. Pad of the big toe, pad of the little toe and heel. Your feet are your connection to the ground and you need it to be stable. How do dancers sprain their ankle? By rolling on the outside of the foot.

It’s not so much that you are missing something with working with bowlegs – it is more that efficient alignment is even more important. You need to keep the weight of the body from dropping into your legs. This is done by making sure your pelvis efficiently lined up, with deep abdominal support and imagining your legs and spine lengthening away from the floor.

No matter what your age is, even if you are at the end of your growth, you can become a beautiful dancer by developing good muscle balance and range of motion along with efficient alignment. Just remember that the way you stand and move outside of class has an enormous amount to do with what happens inside of class and keep up the good posture even when those around you are all slouched and slumped over.

Until next time,

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Painful Hips & Scheuermann’s Kyphosis

Greetings!
Hope everyone is enjoying their summer activities! Right to the questions for the week…

I have had an uncomfortable tightness and pain in my left hip area for about a year. My hips easily pop now. When doing anything that involves the left leg, it won’t go as high and feels like it wants to give out. I feel a little pain when stretching in side splits and leaning to the left and trying to stretch the leg in arabesque. I have seen two orthopedic surgeons with two opinions. One said it was a definite labral tear (no MRI) and the other said it was tight hip flexors. Is there a way to distinguish between the kinds of pain or area each would cause so I know how to fix this problem?
Thank you, Jaime

Jaime, I’m not sure how the definite labral tear was diagnosed without an MRI. Since the fix for a labral tear is surgery – I would certainly want that confirmed before going further.

Tight hip flexors are easy enough to address physically through stretching and massage work. If you stretch and release the hip flexors – do you feel a difference in the hip? It should be a pretty straight-forward even if it doesn’t hold for long. It takes time to truly change any tight muscle.

What I would suggest is doing the rehab for a tight hip flexor and if that isn’t helping think about getting an MRI done to more accurately assess the joint.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I have just had a student diagnosed with Scheuermann’s Kyphosis, which I don’t know much about and am currently researching. Do you know anything about the condition and how it will affect the student’s ability to dance.

Her mother is concerned that the doctors will suggest that she give up dancing. I think that in the case of Kyphosis, dancing will help to keep the spine loose and help to control the progression?

Any help would be greatly appreciated, both by myself and my dancer!
Jane

Scheuermann’s kyphosis is an abnormal rounding of the upper back. Think of a very elderly person who is walking stooped over with just their head picking up. That would be a potential end point for someone with Scheuermann’s. With your student being young – hopefully without back pain and a mild curve – there is much they might do. I imagine they will give her a brace to keep her spinal alignment upright and put her in some type of physical therapy. Pilates on the equipment with a knowledgeable physical therapist is one such possibility. It’s quite possible that dance has been a very positive activity for her already! We know that spine health means maintaining your ability to flex, extend and rotate. I can’t think of a better activity that dance which involves all of those motions of the spine!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

My 12-year old daughter loves modern dance, but she often has pain in her right ankle and foot. Her right arch provides very little support so that she pronates when she walks. From the back her right foot and leg look very similar to the photo that accompanied your May 2 post. I would very much like to know what we should do now to: 1. Minimize her pain 2. Not injure her ankle/foot 3. Make sure that she does not have problems as she gets older. My family doctor grudgingly gave me a prescription for orthotics, but without better understanding of the problem (she has a terrible time turning out at all and could have issues higher up in her legs and hips), it seems foolish to just go for the orthotics. What would you suggest? I am based in central Pennsylvania. It strikes me as ironic that we have orthodontists who fixate on kid’s teeth, but I’m having a hard time finding someone who can help with my daughter’s feet and legs. Thanks for the wonderful newsletter!
Rebecca

It sure can be frustrating to find practitioners who understand what you are going through. Often I counsel my students to find the closest, largest dance studio and see where their dancers go. For you that might the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.

Another way would be to poll the local soccer athletes and runners who they go to. Sports medicine physicians and therapists might not be dance savvy – but they are movement savvy.

As far as your questions you’re on the right track with first and foremost getting her some orthotics. This will accomplish a multitude of issues with correcting the pronation and giving the muscles around the ankle a chance to redevelop balance. In fact, I would have her practice balancing on one foot, while in her orthotics, tossing a ball back and forth between her hands to challenge herself. See if she can stay on one foot for between 1-3 minutes.

She’s 12 – so that means she is growing and moving into the sometimes awkward teenage years. Once you find a practitioner that is versed in sports or arts medicine have them keep checking her leg length. When there is one ankle or foot that hurts – I’m always suspicious that there is something going on above that is creating a weight imbalance – like a long leg or a pelvic/torso shift.

If the foot that hurts is on the side that she has less turnout – then she needs to decrease her first position until she is able to line up the ankle/knee/hip more accurately. She might want to read my Tune Up Your Turnout book for more exercises – and – to understand more appropriately how to create turnout at the hip.

Best wishes for a safe and speedy recovery!

Happy Solstice everyone!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”

Hip Pops

Announcements:

The affiliate program has been set up! If you have a website and would like to be paid for referring others to the educational products that The Body Series offers – here is how you would do it. Creating these products and offering the free newsletter, etc. is certainly not making me rich – and I’m happy to share in any profits as a way to get educate dancers on how to decrease injuries and increase movement potential. I’ll be paying out 15 % of the price of the product for your personal referrals and if someone you refer signs up as an affiliate you will receive 10% of all the sales that come from their referrals! Hoping this will be a win/win situation for us all!

Go to the home page of The Body Series http://www.thebodyseries.com/home.html, scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on affiliate sign up and fill out the form. You will shortly after receive a welcome email from The Body Series that has your user name and password. Go back to the homepage and click affiliate sign in. Once you are in click on links and tools to cut and paste a simple link, banner ad or flash ad to put on your website or in announcements or emails you might send out.

That’s it! Once a month you’ll receive a check in the mail or through PayPal, whichever you prefer.

Onto the questions of the week – and hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend!

I have a 13 yr old female student whose right side hip “pops” out and in while dancing. She says especially when she tries to turn out more. What advice or suggestions can I give her? Sincerely, Tasha

As long as there is no pain during the hip ‘pop’ – I would suspect a muscular imbalance to how she is creating her turnout. The first logical place to check is the tightness of her hip flexors, specifically the iliopsoas. Try having her spend some time stretching the iliopsoas then see if she feels more hip freedom and less hip popping when she begins dancing. If so – then encourage her to do the standing lunge or the runners lunge in between exercises or when she is waiting to move across the floor.

Here is a picture of a sitting and hanging stretch for the hip flexors. You can also do a standing stretch as well as a runners lunge.

My question is a simple one. Is a woman of 32 years too old to commence dancing? I’m physically quite fit and strong. However, I know that being fit and able to do an hour workout class isn’t the same as being physically fit for dance. The type of dancing that I’m referring to is modern/contemporary dance. I started taking classes a few months ago when I realized that it was dance that I wanted to pursue-I know, it took me a while. I also find that whenever I do any sort of dancing, I find myself drawn to ballet type movements: I’m always on my toes, I’m always doing leaps–even before I ever saw these movements being performed. Are these movements typically found in modern/contemporary dance techniques? Also, does it matter that I look quite young? Although I don’t think that me looking young matters, I do look as if I’m in my early twenties. How much does age matter in this world? And last but not least, what is a good stretching exercise in order to achieve a good side leg lift? Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Nicole

The simple answer to your question about age and dancing is NO – it is never too old to commence dancing! There is much research that is being done on how exercise can reverse the aging process, even if you begin in the latter decades of your life. Dance is a good choice for many as it focuses on building strength and flexibility.

How much does age matter is an interesting question. To quote Jack Benny, “Age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” I will admit to generally feeling that more mature dancers are more interesting to watch. For me athleticism without that special spark or connection is not as engaging. Mature dancers has more to do with life experience than age in years. What I know is our bodies as well as our brains are plastic, meaning there is constant change going on. If dancing brings you happiness and joy – then it is doing good things for you!

As far as your question about good stretching exercises to achieve a side leg lift I would focus on stretching the hamstring muscles at the back of the leg from the standing position.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Deborah

“Education is the key to injury prevention”