Got Sore Muscles?

Behind every talented, seasoned, professional dancer is a bag of tricks they use to recuperate, recharge and care for their aching feet and muscles.  Dancers are so hard on their bodies.  We rarely have time to adequately heal and repair before we are back in the studio again. But there are tools and methods to help keep your muscles strong and injury free.  It wasn’t until my first major injury in college that my eyes were opened to an entire world of empowerment in  taking care of myself to prolong my dancing.  Wow, does it make the difference!  I so wish that I knew these things in my teen years!  So today I share a few of my favorite “bag of tricks”, as they say.  Some essentials necessary for every dancer’s quest for self-care and injury prevention. They would also make fabulous Christmas gifts for the dancers in your life!

Rolling Foot Massager

Rolling Foot Massager

1. Rolling Foot Massager

A favorite to have around always!  Roll this wooden roller along the bottom of your foot.  It stimulates the whole body by activating the pressure points on the foot, helping increase circulation and recharging the energy in the foot.  It is great to  help prevent injuries to the plantar fascia, which can be horribly painful to a dancer and hard to heal once you are burdened with it. It is especially helpful for foot cramps!

Porcupine Massage Ball

Porcupine Massage Ball

2.. Massage Ball or a Porcupine Ball

Roll this massage ball along the bottom of the foot and it really helps to get to all tightness out of the little areas of foot, especially the heel and toes.   What is also great about the massage ball  is that you can use it anywhere on the body.  It is especially helpful for the back and shoulders.  Place this between you and a wall and press your sore muscles into it!  Add a circular motion and you are quickly breaking up those hard to reach knots!  The spikes add an additional health benefits by activating the pressure points on the foot and really feel fantastic on your aching muscles.  You can purchase the Porcupine Ball on Amazon here!   J/ also has a set of three sizes, which is a nice gift.

Tennis Ball

Tennis Ball

Of course, most dancers just use a tennis ball or a cheap rubber ball from a kids toy store.  A fabulous and much cheaper tool, most dancers keep one  in their dance bag to help roll on tight muscles or stubborn injuries. It is a great way to wake up the feet, it helps relieve stressed out muscles and it also helps to improve your arch.   They are also nice to keep close by for strengthening exercises, which is another blog entirely!

Rolling Massager

Rolling Massager

3. Rolling Massager

This massaging tool, is set up with handles that allow really effective deep tissue  and trigger point release.  It feels great and you can tell right away that your muscles are benefiting!   The ridges help to get a deeper myofascia release, as well as increase circulation and your muscles stretch reflex. It is ideal for your legs, as you get a better connection with both hands. I like the theraband brand, as some are really loud or squeaky.  Something to think about when you purchase, as you will want to use it at the dance studio.  You can read more about them here.

foam slant board

Slanted Foam Board

4. Slanted Foam Board

One of the more important items that your dancer should own. This tool essentially places your feet and ankles in the ideal dorsi flexion position,  which effectively stretches your calf muscles optimally.  This helps keep the Achilles tendon and shins happy as well.  I tell my students repeatedly that your calves require daily stretching, if not multiple times a day! As dancers, we really use and abuse this family of muscles and it is so important to take care of your calves, Achilles and shins!   This tool helps you do it correctly. Visit this helpful site for more information.


Foam Roller in use @ Ballet Austin's Butler Community School

Foam Roller in use @ Ballet Austin’s Butler Community School

5. Foam Roller

This tool is great for both stretching and releasing tight muscles but also for strengthening exercises.  It’s benefits are too long to name here.  In addition its fun to play on! Like the picture above, the idea is to roll your tight muscles along the roller, using your body weight.  This massages the muscles and you can quickly identify and relieve tight areas and muscular knots.   “The exercise physiology geeks refers to this concept as “Self-Myofascial Release Technique”.  A great quote taken from the “The Mighty Foam Roller” blog,  read it here. If you wish to learn more about technical side please visit the Wiki page here.  The Boston Sports Medicine Blog is particularly fantastic, as it illustrates some of the most important exercises for dancers.  The Piriformis and Iliotibial band need extra special care on a dancers body!

Neve Campbell dancing in her dream project, the Robert Altman ballet drama "The Company"

Neve Campbell dancing in her dream project, the Robert Altman ballet drama “The Company”

The Foam Roller  reminds me of the movie, “The Company” staring Neve Campbell.  She took a break from her successful Hollywood career and “Scream” franchise to train again intensively in ballet and get herself back to  the level of the Joffrey.  She only wanted to do the movie if she could perform all the dancing without a body double. That is pretty impressive!   She is often shown in the movie  walking around with her foam roller under her arm.  At times, it is almost comedic.   I am sure that her Foam Roller was attached to her hip in real life as well for the duration of the movie! I often laugh to myself and think, “I bet the director just threw it in there as she was truly walking around with it all the time for her multiple injuries.”   So I leave you with this quote from Neve Campbell, taken from an interview with her regarding the movie.  Catch the entire interview here.

“How did being a dancer help you to be an actress?

Dance is incredibly disciplined and incredibly challenging. I think it has helped me with challenges, to handle them and not be overwhelmed and attack them. I am daring, or I can be daring, because of dance. Dance can be daring. I also learned to take care of myself fairly well. As a dancer, you can’t afford not to.” – Neve Campbell

That’s right dancers, you can’t afford not to! Proactive self-care  and injury prevention is essential, so let’s get to work on getting the right tools!

Wishing everyone happy stretching!

Lets further the art of dance together… ASK MS. SONYA, I want to help!


One comment

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