If you’re a dancer, chances are you’ve had your fair share of sore muscles after a particularly difficult dance class. Sore muscles don’t mean you’ve overdone it, though, they just mean you’ve worked hard! However, soreness can interfere with your day-to-day life and there are some tried and true methods to get through it!
To treat and care for sore muscles, remember to warm up before you dance, cool down after class, and practice self-care. Use techniques like massage, foam rolling, taking Epsom salt baths, and resting!
Sore muscles may sometimes be the result of an injury or overuse. If soreness persists for longer than a couple of days, you may want to consult a medical professional. The advice you read here is no substitute for actual medical care.
The advice you read here is no substitute for actual medical care.
Warm Up Before Class, Rehearsal, and Performance
One of the main culprits of muscle soreness and injury is the failure to do a proper warm-up. Warm-up before class, rehearsal, or performance. Dancers want to rush their warm-up and run off adrenaline, but your muscles need that time to get ready to dance!
A good warm-up includes a combination of stretching, cardio, strength elements, and dynamic movement. Dynamic movement means moving through positions instead of holding them. Simply sitting in a straddle or a butterfly doesn’t achieve anything! Be sure you are actively participating in your warm-up, whether that’s in class or on your own.
Dynamic Stretching Instead of Static Stretching
Speaking of stretching, one mistake dancers often make is doing static stretches as mentioned above. Studies have shown that static stretching (holding a stretch for longer periods of time) is less beneficial than dynamic stretching (active movements where your body goes through a range of motion).
Am I stretching wrong?
Static stretching can be overdone quickly, especially when dancers aren’t being mindful of their stretching habits. You may have heard a teacher suggest stretching your straddle split while watching tv – this is useful advice, but only if you choose to pay attention to your stretching AND the tv. If you simply sit in a middle split for half an hour, your muscles will absolutely be sore after because they’ve been stretched to their max!
Cool Down After Class
Another way to prevent sore muscles is to make it a point to actively cool down after dance class or rehearsal. So often, dancers finish class and rush out the door – understandable with how much homework they may have! But, a proper cool down can give your muscles and heart a much-needed reminder that class is over, and it’s time to rest.
A cool down can consist of static stretching (which is actually most beneficial AFTER class!), slow, fluid movements like head rolls and shoulder rolls, and juicy pliés. By giving your body a slow, easy cool down, you can prevent extreme muscle soreness.
I’ve never met a dancer who has never experienced sore muscles, so if you find yourself aching after dance class, know you’re not alone! One of the easiest ways to care for your sore muscles is self-massage.
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a professional massage to benefit from massage. Using your favorite lotion or cream, you can dig into the muscles in your feet, legs, glutes, and shoulders using your fingers and knuckles. Check out this video for some helpful massage techniques for your calf and lower leg that you can start using immediately to find relief!
Foam rolling is a dancer’s best friend when it comes to caring for sore muscles. Rolling out allows more blood flow to the area being treated, and can decrease your soreness (that is after you get over the slight discomfort that can sometimes come with foam rolling techniques!)
When foam rolling, take care to not put pressure on your joints or bones. Also, don’t go too fast – as uncomfortable as it can be to stay in one place for too long with a foam roller, rolling too quickly across an area won’t give you any benefit.
A good rule of thumb is to stay on an area until you feel a release, or until your pain tolerance goes above a 5/10. If you linger too long on an area that won’t release, it will be even sorer the next day!
Epsom Salt Bath or Soak
After you’ve massaged and rolled and stretched, it’s time for the relaxing part of caring for sore muscles – soaking! Epsom salts have been used for years to relieve muscle soreness for all kinds of people, dancers included.
You can find Epsom salts at your local drug store or pharmacy, and because they have become a self-care staple, they also now come in pleasant scents like lavender and eucalyptus.
To soak your feet only, pour two cups of Epsom salts into a tub of warm water. To soak your whole body, two to three cups of Epsom salts in your tub will give you a nice, effervescent bath.
No dancer wants to hear the word “rest”, but that’s one of the best things you can do for your body when your muscles are sore. After doing all of the previous self-care ideas, it’s time to tuck yourself into bed, get a solid 8 hours of sleep and spend time relaxing your body after a hard night of dance class.
Rest might also mean taking a day off from any extra activity, or any class that’s not required. Sometimes bodies need just a little TLC to recover!
Sore muscles are normal for active dancers, but by following these tips to care for your body, you can alleviate the pain and get back to dancing your heart out!
Check out this article – Strength training at your dance studio