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Maintaining a Dancer's Body: What is Manual Therapy?

Welcome to September with Science in Dance and a special Welcome to our Guest Author, Jodie Comer. You may have heard of Jodie from previous articles, as she is the latest cog to be added to Science in Dance Engine. Jodie is supporting Dancers at KS Dance and Science in Dance with Manual Therapy and Rehabilitation.

This article is a brief overview on the role that Manual Therapists have in the World of Dance. Jodie is a great practitioner with a superb perspective. We believe that exercise is the best medicine for instability and movement related issues, yet, therapists have a key role in facilitating that movement and creating an environment where Dancers feel safe and secure when going to work with Strength Coaches.

What is Manual Therapy? What is the importance for Dancers?

Manual Therapy is a broad term used for treatment where the Clinician applies a hands-on approach with different treatment methods to affect the musculoskeletal and neurological systems. The main aim of manual therapy is to restore pain-free range of movement and is applied to joints, muscles, fascia, tendons and neural structures.

The clinician will complete an assessment prior to treatment where they look for abnormalities in tissue tone, pain or tenderness and restriction in movement. The manual therapy treatment will be selected following the assessment. Commonly, multiple treatment methods are done to the area and connecting tissues.

Manual therapy treatments include:

  • Joint mobilisation and manipulation

  • Neural stretching and flossing

  • Soft tissue therapy

  • Massage

  • Trigger point therapy

  • Myo-fascial release

  • Muscle energy techniques

  • Acupuncture / dry needling

  • Cupping

  • IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue massage)

The treatments listed above have many effects on the body but they all aim to reduce dysfunctional movements, reduce muscle tension, reduce pain, aid the inflammatory process following injury and increase efficiency and quality of movement.

Dance demands a lot from the body, both physically and mentally, and dancers are very in tune with their body. They can often tell when there is restriction in the tissues when performing dance movements. It is important for dancers to listen to their body when these restrictions are felt, because if the dancer chooses to ignore it, it could lead to compensation movement patterns, unnecessary load on other areas of the body and dysfunctional movement patterns. When the dancers feel restriction, they can try some self-release work to that area using foam rollers, massage balls, heat therapy and stretching, but if restriction is still felt, this is the time to book an appointment with a Manual Therapist.

To conclude, if you begin to feel restriction in your dance movement, try some self-release work but if that isn’t quite helping, try arranging an appointment with your manual therapist who will assess and use the appropriate treatment method for the tissue restriction.

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