Between kicking your leg up above your head to grand jeté-ing several feet into the air, having sore muscles is an inevitability when it comes to dance. In this post, we’ll take a look at some things you can do to help prevent and take care of soreness.
Note that we’ll be discussing treatments for everyday soreness, not injuries. If you think you may be injured, we encourage you to seek advice from a trusted medical professional.
Heat vs. Cold Treatments
Depending on what stage of the workout/recovery process you’re in, the steps you’ll take will be different. In general, heat treatments are best used on muscles before exercise (to help warm up,) or a few hours after exercise. Cold treatments are best used directly after exercising muscles or during the recovery process. Stretching is a good idea before and after exercise, and physical treatments (massage balls, foam rollers etc.) are great while your muscles recover.
Heat Treatments for Sore Muscles
Using heat on muscles results in more blood flow in that area. For this reason, it’s better to use heat only after the muscles have had a chance to cool down. Heat is also very soothing so it’s a great way to relax muscles that have tensed up from being sore (at least a few hours after exercise).
Some common heat treatments include:
- A warm bath
- A hot water bottle
- A warm rice bag
- Heated tools (T Sphere)
- Chemical heat packs
Cold Treatments for Sore Muscles
When you use cold treatments, it slows the blood flow in that area. This helps greatly to reduce inflammation, a common cause for muscle soreness. Many pro athletes will jump into an ice bath and soak for a few minutes after an intense workout. The idea is to help cool the muscles down before they have a chance to become inflamed. Typically in a dance studio, there aren’t ice tubs for the dancers to hop into.
Common cold treatments include:
- Ice in a baggie, wrapped in a dry towel
- Chemical ice packs
- Cooled tools (T Sphere)
Warm Up and Massage Exercises
Physical treatments can also have a large effect on sore muscles. Warming up and stretching before and after class is one of the first things you learn as a dancer. When the muscles are loosened up, it makes it easier for them to work during class which results in less inflammation. After the fact, stretching helps to limber up muscles that are stiff from being exercised. Massage helps to release build-ups of lactic acid, which can contribute to muscle soreness. Rolling your muscles with tools like massage balls or foam rollers has been known to greatly reduce the amount of pain you feel when recovering from a workout.
General Muscle Care
Lactic acid is believed to be one of the chief causes of muscle soreness. This acid is also water-soluble, so staying hydrated before, during, and after dancing is key to keeping you pain-free. Soaking in an epsom salt bath has also been known to help muscles. Just add 1-2 cups into a tub of warm water and soak for a while to feel the stress and pain melt away.
If you have any questions or tips of your own to deal with soreness, feel free to let us know via phone, email, or face-to-face!