Dance Medicine: Teaming Up With The Right Medical Team Will Keep You Dancing

In an article some years ago a researcher spoke on the subject of a dancer being a performing athlete and stated, “The physical demands placed on dancers from current choreography and performance schedules make their physiology and fitness just as important as skill development.” Your physical health and fitness are important! Whether you are currently a professional dancer for some years or just beginning your career, injury can feel devastating and having to plot out a path to recovery can feel overwhelming.   

Here is where having a good medical team will quickly help allay fears, organize your treatment plan, and get you on the road to recovery right away. Frankly, the most common cases of injuries do not just occur suddenly and most will not be completely crippling either. Rather, overusing the body, lack of proper rest, and even poor positioning are what can contribute to an injury over time. Here is where the best defense is a good offense! Know your medical professionals and who can provide you with the best program to address any irritating issues before they become major. BFW can help! 

To help you select the right team of professionals, BFW provides you with an outline of whom you can visit and why. 

Primary-care physicians: Your primary care physician is a great place to start your care. These doctors are trained to help with a variety of challenges that can hamper your dancing. They’ll identify symptoms that require a specialist’s attention and make appropriate referrals.

Orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons: Ballet injuries usually require a doctor with extensive knowledge of muscles, bones, and connective tissue, so this often leads dancers to an orthopedist. If there’s any concern that your injury might require surgery—for instance, if you need to have painful bone spurs removed or damaged connective tissue repaired—you can expect to see an orthopedic surgeon. They will help with more serious injuries and if the treatment plan does not feel right with you, always feel free to seek second opinions. 

Osteopaths: This type of physician traditionally favors preventive care and relies minimally on medication. Currently, you can find osteopaths (identified by the credentials “DO”) in every medical specialty, even surgery. These professionals have received extensive training in the interrelationship of the body’s structure and function and you can even find former dancers among their ranks. Many of their treatments include using their hands, similar to a chiropractor, and making adjustments with gentle pressure. 

Physiatrists: A physical medicine and rehabilitation physician, or physiatrist, specializes in injuries involving muscles, bones, and connective tissue, as well as the brain and spinal cord. Usually, at your first consultation, a physiatrist will test your joints for flexibility, strength, and balance, and watch how you walk. Among the various treatments, they can offer is either a variety of acupuncture techniques or more traditional treatments such as injections of steroids, lidocaine, or other medications.

Physical therapists, certified athletic trainers, and massage therapists: More than assisting you in returning to dance form, these specialists can help prevent injuries, especially if they have dance-specific training. Along with manual treatments like assisted stretches and joint mobilization (where you typically relax and breathe while someone moves your bones), PTs and ATCs can recommend exercises and stretches to do at home that can help improve your alignment, range of motion, muscular balance, and ballet technique. Massage therapy can be a good means to prevent muscular imbalances that can lead to injury and is also a common post-performance custom for dancers.

Chiropractors: This popular professional is usually sought out because of the immediate effect of their treatments. They will use a range of techniques aimed at helping the bones become better aligned. Always discuss the plan of treatment a chiropractor will use. At times, chiropractors support their treatments with other modalities, like acupuncture or massage.

Acupuncturists: Leading professionals in the field like to refer to acupuncture as a kind of reset button. This form of ancient medicine inserts very thin needles under the skin to alter the body’s energy. It can be used to treat physical symptoms, like swelling and muscle strains, as well as mental challenges, like anxiety and exhaustion.


A good team will make sure you have the best of what you need. So as you visit these professionals, you may find you are referred to another or you may want to explore what suits you best. A doctor or therapist with dance expertise is a plus, but not the only option. Talk things out, explain how you use your body and work together. As you do, you will feel confident that you can keep dancing now and for a very long time. BFW continues to support our dancing community. See our online schedules for all levels of Ballet and other great classes that will keep you on your toes.

Over to you: Are you a medical professional that would like to be featured in If so, please contact us or submit your piece through our online submissions form. Your content could be seen and benefit 10,000+ dancers that visit our website every month.