Whether you’re training for a competition or getting ready for a big audition, there’s never a good time for a dance injury. But good news – we have a wealth of advice that can help inform you about dance injuries, their prevention, and how to care for them.
From the most common dance injuries to when to speak to a professional, here’s everything you need to protect yourself from dance injuries.
What are some common dance injuries?
Due to the nature of dance, a few injuries occur more commonly than others. Generally speaking, ligament and soft tissue injuries are most common among dancers, including sprains, torn muscles, and injured tendons. Bone injuries, including breaks, are slightly less common but still a risk, especially if a fall occurs.
Here are some of the most common dance injuries to be aware of:
Dance ankle injuries
Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries for dancers. They occur when you overstretch your ligaments and the joint is extended beyond your usual range of motion. This type of injury is more common and can be worse if you haven’t warmed up correctly. Ankle sprains can happen due to misaligned ankles during a move, miss landing a jump, falling, slipping, or wearing incorrect footwear.
Another common foot and ankle injury is Achilles tendonitis. This occurs when excess pressure is put on the Achilles tendon due to overuse. Again, not warming up correctly or using the incorrect technique can cause or exacerbate this kind of injury.
Dance toe injuries
A common dance injury, especially during ballet or when dancing en pointe, is ‘trigger toe’. This is damage caused to the muscles in the toe – usually the big toe. Pain from trigger toe can extend throughout the ankle and the foot.
Dance leg injuries
Shin splints can be common when too much pressure is put on the leg, by dancing on a too-hard surface, or not warming up correctly. Not using correct technique can also increase the risk of injury to the shin.
Dance hip injuries
A snapping or popping hip is a commonly reported dance injury. This can happen when a muscle or tendon in the hip moves over the hip bone, often during repetitive movements or overuse.
When should you be concerned about a dance injury?
As with any exercise, a certain amount of pain or soreness after class can be normal. Regular muscle soreness from dance usually lasts a day or two, so if you’re still experiencing pain after 48 hours, this could be a cause for concern.
We’d also recommend chatting to a dance professional or your doctor if
- You have pain that gets much worse when you dance or put pressure on it
- You have pain that is present before you start dancing
- You have pain that limits your ability to move/dance
- You have pain that keeps you awake at night
What causes dance injuries?
There are many reasons dance injuries happen – often, they can be simply down to bad luck. However, many dance injuries are preventable. Here are some common causes of dance injury.
Inadequate footwear or equipment
If you’re wearing clothing or dance footwear that doesn’t fit correctly, you’re significantly increasing the chance of an injury. Shoes should fit snug to the foot – too tight, and you’re at risk of rubbing, soreness, or blisters, too loose, and you risk trips and falls.
Not warming up correctly
Injuries can occur or be made worse if you haven’t warmed up correctly. You should always ensure you’ve fully warmed up before dancing, so your muscles are warm and have the flexibility they need.
Issues with dance floors
Dancing should ideally always happen on a purpose-built dance floor. The floor being too slippery increases the risk of an injury, as does spills on floors.
Lack of skill
Improper technique or rushing into moves you aren’t ready for is a common cause of dance injury. For example, going en pointe before you’re ready dramatically increases the chance of foot or ankle injury from falls. You should always ensure you’re dancing at a level you’re comfortable with.
Lack of rest
For professional dancers, there is little to no offseason. Dance is a demanding activity, and the long training sessions plus repetitive movement can increase the risk of injury. We’d always recommend not overdoing training, especially if you feel any unusual pain.
How to treat dance injuries
So, if you do experience a dance injury, how do you care for it?
Dance schools and professional dancers should have a dance first aid kit on hand so any injuries can be treated as quickly as possible. This should ideally include:
- Ice/cold packs
- Bandages for compression
- Medical tape
Our guide to What to Pack in Your Dance Bag has more advice on things to keep handy when dancing.
The RICE approach is good to bear in mind for any kind of sport-related injury, including dance. This stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Applying ice immediately after an injury reduces swelling and helps keep inflammation down. However, be careful applying ice right before dancing – your muscles should always be fully warmed up to reduce the chance of further injury.
A few days after the initial injury, you can apply heat. This helps increase blood flow to the area, which can assist with healing.
It’s always important to listen to your body when it comes to dancing injuries. Pushing through pain can worsen injuries, so always speak to your dance teacher or a medical professional if you’re concerned about returning to dance with an injury.
How to prevent injuries in dance
We all know prevention is better than cure. In an ideal world, you’ll prevent dance injuries before they even occur! Here are some top tips to make sure you’re keeping safe and protected when dancing.
1. Warm up
We can’t stress enough the importance of warming up before dance. Whether you’re heading to a class, audition or show, you should always complete a full warm-up before hitting the dance floor. This ensures your muscles are warm and flexible and your joints are fully mobilized.
2. Rest up
Dancers often have incredibly busy schedules, but it’s important to put aside as much time as you possibly can to rest and recover in between training. Listen to your body and avoid overdoing it.
3. Ensure you have the correct footwear
Your clothing and footwear should always be appropriate for the style of dance you’re doing and should always fit correctly. If you’re unsure about the fit of your dance shoes, you can visit a Bloch store for a professional fitting. We also have a Pointe Shoe Guide, Tap Shoe Guide, and Jazz Shoe Guide, all packed with specific information for ballet, tap, and jazz footwear.
4. Eat well and stay hydrated
Leading a healthy lifestyle is very important when dancing. You should always ensure you’re getting plenty of nutrients and drinking lots of water, especially before training. Understand your body and what it needs, and make sure it’s looked after.
5. Deal with injuries straight away
Many minor injuries can worsen over time if you don’t identify and treat them quickly. If you have an injury you’re concerned about, always chat with a professional. Pushing through pain and continuing to dance through it can make injuries more complicated in the long term.
6. Build strength and balance
While you should be careful not to overdo exercise between training, working on your endurance, strength, and balance can help reduce the risk of injury when dancing. Light exercise and balance-based activities can help you perform your best.
7. Monitor children's training
If you’re a parent sending your child to dance class, ensure they eat healthily and practice proper technique. You should also take care that they don’t begin pointe training too early – starting before the feet and ankles have developed enough will increase the chance of injury. If you’re unsure, we’ve put together a post on When Are You Ready to Go En Pointe?
Dance injuries are usually minor and can easily be treated or, better yet, prevented. Follow these tips, look after your body, and you can continue dancing your best for years to come. Whether you’re just starting a journey into dance or you’re a professional dancer, you can explore our dance advice and education section for all the latest from our experts.