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Tag: injury prevention

Back Injuries Common for Dancers: What You Need to Know

Back Injuries

In a previous article, we covered 5 of the more common dance injuries. At the top of the list was Lumbosacral injuries, more commonly known as the lower back area. It is the base of the spine and crucial to the connection between the upper and lower body. But this is not the only area of the back that is known to frequently plague dancers if they are not careful or pay attention to their body’s limits. It is important to be aware of some of the specific types of back injuries to this area and others. They can seem minor but left uncared for, can be some of the most detrimental to a dancer’s career. It is important to know when to seek medical advice.

Common Back Injuries:

 Muscle Pull in the Quadratus Lumborum 

  • About the Injury:

Strain or overexertion of the Quadratus Lumborum

  • Symptoms of Injury:

Tightness and aching in the lower back (though it sometimes may present itself as a sharper pain

  • Causes:

Like many muscles pulls it can be caused by overexertion. Other causes can also include: poor posture, unequal leg length, muscle weakness, and trauma

  • Further Complications:

While soreness and muscle pain are common for any athlete. Attempting to fight through the pain can lead to worsening the pull, chronic low back pain, as well as injuries to other parts of the body trying to compensate for the injury, typically the hips.

  • Treatment:  

Rest, heat or ice, yoga and stretching, massage therapy, and, if necessary, medication

Stress Fractures of the Lower Back (also known as Spondylolysis)

  • About the Injury:

This injury is most common in younger dancers. It forms in the thin area of the vertebral bone, known as the pars interarticularis. It is the part of the vertebra that helps form the joint with the other vertebra. A stress fracture is a unique type of fracture or breaks compared to a traumatic break. As it is but a complete break but happens over time when the bone can regenerate fast enough to keep up with the strain.

  • Symptoms of Injury:

Unfortunately, injury can exist for some younger dancers for a period of time without any noticeable symptoms. The most frequent symptom is a dull lower back pain that worsens over time. It often feels similar to a muscle strain. If you think your child may have or be at risk for Sondylolysis it is important to consult a doctor. This injury does not mean the end of a dancing career. But special precautions are recommended to ensure it does not interfere with your dancer’s experience.

  • Causes: 


  • Treatment:

Rest, acetaminophen, and several months of physical therapy is the best way to treat this type of injury. It is important to improve core and muscle strength around the injured area to reduce strain.

Disc Herniation (or “Slipped Disc”)

  • About the Injury: 

A “disc” is the cushion between the individual vertebrae. This disc can sometimes tear through is protective exterior. These types of back injuries are far more frequent in older dancers than in children.

  • Symptoms of the Injury: 

Arm or leg pain. Herniations of the lower back most commonly result in the buttocks, thigh, and calf. It is a noticeable, intense pain. There may also be numbness, weakness, or tingling. Though, it is possible to have a herniated disk and not be aware of it.

  • Causes: 

Some people are at a higher risk for this injury simply based on genetics, but the most common causes are excess body weight and physically demanding jobs that require repetition of strenuous motions.

  • Treatment: 

While physical therapy, yoga, and other non-medical activities can be helpful. If the herniation is severe enough, it will likely require over-the-counter medication, and, possibly, surgery.

Lumbar Facet Sprain

  • About the Injury: 

This type of sprain is often caused by hyperextending the spine, causing two types of joints to be compressed.

  • Symptoms of the Injury: 

It typically presents as back pain – the tenderness of the muscles connected to the spine occasionally accompanied by radiation to the groin and the back of the leg, but it does not extend past the knee

  • Causes:

This type of sprain is often caused by hyperextending the spine, causing two types of joints to be compressed. Especially when bending forward and backward while rotating the spine.

  • Treatment: 

Fortunately, this injury does not require surgery. Rest, physical therapy, and a slow progression back into dance should resolve the injury.

General Risk Factors

The risk factors for many of these back injuries include: fatigue, inadequate conditioning, poor flexibility, and being underweight.


Back injuries are to be taken seriously as many risk developing into debilitating injuries that will put one’s future in dance at risk. It is important to listen to your body or your dancers. It is also important to take medical advise seriously and to come back stronger than before the injury.

Check out some of these articles focusing on stretches to help avoid these and other injuries:

How to Treat Muscle Cramps for Your Dancers

How to Treat Muscle Cramps

How many times have you had a dancer cramp up during class and not be able to continue? Probably too many to count. When students, especially beginners, are pushing themselves a little too hard, their bodies will probably fight back. Muscle cramps, especially those in the feet and back, are painful and sometimes crippling to dancers, so it’s important that you know how to treat muscle cramps for your dancers, relax the muscle during class and prevent the problem in the future.

Quick Fixes for Tight Muscles

When one of your students gets a cramp during class, the first thing you should do is to get him or her something to drink. Individuals should drink 64 ounces of water every day – that’s approximately four bottles of water – and dancers should consume even more. DanceTeacher magazine explained that when students get dehydrated, their bodies aren’t able to keep with the pace of class, leading to cramps. Make sure that your dancers are taking regular water breaks throughout rehearsal to prevent these issues.

The next thing your dancer needs to do is relax the muscle that’s cramped. Have the student take deep breaths and massage the muscle with a foam roller.

“It really helps to breathe anytime you’re dancing and you feel like you’re getting exhausted,” Megan Richardson, a certified athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, told DanceTeacher magazine. “It calms [the] nervous system so those overstimulated muscles relax.”

Once the dancer can walk, have her slowly take a lap around the studio. It might seem counterintuitive, but walking will help leg muscles to stretch out from their contracted position. For foot cramps, encourage your dancer to do a few ankle circles and toe curls to help those muscles relax.

Target Problem Areas with Stretching

To prevent muscle cramps or spasms in the future, show your dancers some preventive stretches and encourage them to designate a little extra time to warm up and cool down. Before class, dynamic stretches will be the most beneficial, as they get the blood pumping with low-intensity movement.

“Even walking or biking to class is an ideal way to get the blood moving and raise the body’s temperature,” Jennifer Gamboa, president of the rehabilitation facility Body Dynamics, told Dance magazine. “Simply put, the body needs movement to get ready to dance.”

Gamboa recommended having your students try leg brushes, arm circles, trunk rotations and traveling lunges to get their bodies warmed up before class. Once the rehearsal is finished, that’s the time to focus on static stretching, where you work on lengthening certain muscles.

Banish Cramps with a Preventative Diet

Your dancers’ diets are equally as important in preventing muscle cramps. Encourage your students to eat foods rich in electrolytes, which will help to replace nutrients lost through sweat. Bananas, kiwi and yogurt are all packed with potassium, which can help to ward off cramps. Some other good choices are whole grains, apricots and avocados for magnesium, nuts and vegetable juice for sodium, and broccoli, milk and cheese for calcium.

“The best time to eat is 30 to 45 minutes after exercise, because that’s when the body is at its prime time to uptake all the nutrients,” Allison Wagner Eble, Cincinnati Ballet’s registered dietitian, told DanceTeacher magazine.

Sports drinks are a good way to replace electrolytes in a pinch, but healthy foods also provide other valuable nutrients that will contribute to overall wellness. Plus, sports drinks often contain high levels of added sugar, which can be harmful to the body when consumed in excess.