When a ballet dancer’s core muscles are weak, or when a ballerina is working an intense schedule without sufficient recovery time, where does the tension go? Often on the neck and shoulders.
Ballet dancers (and other style dancers) will typically work with increasing tension and tension, aching muscles, and mild pain, until the condition develops to the point of sharp, sharp neck pain. They will begin to feel extreme stiffness in the neck, having difficulty moving it in any direction. When the pain reaches its worst, it can be accompanied by a stabbing pain in both shoulders and perhaps even the elbows.
This type of discomfort can develop very gradually, so it does not necessarily imply personal negligence. The pain is usually less in the morning, although the stiffness is noticeable. With more time and attention to warm up the neck and upper back, a good part of an intense rehearsal day, beginning with class, could be danced well with tolerance for discomfort. However, chances are that as the day progresses, the pain will increase, often described as a “shooting pain”, with certain movements. Neck stiffness may return even though the dancer is warming up. The tension becomes visible to others, whether they are watching or training.
At this point, the dancer will be forced to take time to seek professional help. Upon examination by a chiropractor, for example, the back of the neck and the muscles of the middle back will be found to be in tight spasm. The muscles under the chin may also spasm, holding the head at a downward angle. The dancer easily understands that he has worsened this condition by working with the head off the shoulders. (When the postural plumb is violated in any way, additional muscle grip will appear, as the body always finds a way to compensate and “balance” itself).
The alarming thing is that, when viewing an X-ray of this type of neck, you can see that the normal curve is not only diminished, but has been reversed! And, rather distressing news for a young ballet dancer, the front of the mid-neck bones can be severely degenerated due to chronic pressure on the front of them.
This inversion of the curve is all too common among classically trained dancers. Traditional ballet positions require the neck to appear tall and straight. Although it is not intended to do harm, the muscles along the front of the neck become stronger and stronger. This development straightens the bones in the neck and continues throughout the years of training, until the normal curve is reversed. The front of the neck bones actually begin to grind, and gradually arthritis sets in.
The goal of chiropractic care would be to re-mobilize the neck bones that are blocked by the spasm, in addition to releasing chronic tension from the shoulder and upper back muscles. Early treatment can prevent the development of the inverted curve and eventual arthritis. Tight neck muscles can be relaxed and stretched, relieving compression that reduces natural curvature. Massage, mechanical traction, and a supportive sleep pillow can all contribute to chiropractic treatment, counteracting harmful tendencies that have become a habit for the ballet dancer.
The neck of a ballet dancer can be held in a high and slightly upright position without causing damage. All ballet students should understand how to properly relax and stretch, as well as how to strengthen core muscles to prevent neck strain and back pain. Education will prevent injury from ballet dance.
Take advantage of dance education available online and in stores. There is so much information! Dance smart!