Thursday, 21 February 2013

The importance of dance-specific medical practitioners

If you're a dance student, working freelance, part-time or recreationally, or indeed if you're aligned to a company that does not have it's own physio, podiatrist or osteopath, you've probably had some mixed experiences going to see medical practitioners about dance related injuries. In the UK we're lucky enough to have the NHS, meaning we don't have to pay to see a specialist. The downside of this is we usually don't get to pick who we see.

Dance is such a specific physical activity, with each genre of dance having it's own specific physical strains and requirements. When we get injured we need our bodies to be able to go back to doing what they did before - and usually this is completely out with the scope of the general public. When a medical practitioner decides we're 'fixed' they may well be looking at us with a mind to the general public, what are we complaining about, we're fit, healthy, in good shape, and the fracture/sprain/miscellaneousinjury has healed pretty well, our balance is fine, we're expected to get on with it. Owing to a heightened sense of proprioception, an high awareness of our bodies and years of putting them through rigorous physical training however, we often recognise something is still not right, or not as it was, even when medical and physical tests show good results.

Having a practitioner who is well versed in the demands of dance and of the physical requirements of the dancer's body, makes treatment and recovery less stressful and more complete. Sports specialists are  great, but again if they predominantly work with rugby players or golfers, you will need to spend a substantial amount of time explaining your body and your art's requirements before they can get down to treating you. The easiest thing for you is to find a reputable practitioner with specialist knowledge in working with dancers.

Finding a practitioner

  • In the UK there is Dance UK's Medical Practitioners Directory providing a list of practitioners including podiatrists, physios, osteopaths, chiropractors, orthopaedic surgeons and nutritionists.
  • The National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science in London provides the only NHS dance injury clinic in the UK and operates a referral system so that injured dancers can be treated by practitioners with in-depth dance specific knowledge. 
  • In the absence of a reputable dance injury clinic, a google search will throw up dozens of results for medical practitioners with a specialism in dance. Ensure that they are registered professionals, aligned to reputable clinics and have a good reputation before checking in with anyone.

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