In dance, a lot of traditional, Western medicine is used. In sports injury and injury prevention that’s not totally shocking. It’s generally been more of the norm. However, more and more athletes and artists/dancers are beginning to open up to alternative therapies to support their health.

Alternative medicine tends to be more preventative than reactionary. Instead of responding to pain your supporting your strength and development before any pain develops.

Here are some ideas for things you might incorporate into your preventative medicine routine. Have you tried any of them? What was the outcome? Share in the comments below!

Acupuncture is something more dancers should consider. It’s the use of needles to stimulate different parts of the body. There’s some debate as to how exactly acupuncture works whether it’s stimulating neurohormonal pathways, making you happier thus reducing your feelings of pain. Or, it might be reducing pr0 – inflammatory markers in the body.

Either way, it’s worth trying as you never know what might help.

For muscle soreness, inflammation or pain you might try Cupping. In cupping, vacuum is created between your skin and the cup, then the skin rises and reddens as the blood vessels expand. It’s going to allow your muscles in the “cupped” area to relax and alleviates muscle pain.

Lot’s of dancers, even back in my day used Arnica Gel which is homeopathic medicine to relieve pain and inflammation. I experienced “chronic ankle sprains” as a dancer so Arnica was a saving grace for me. Homeopathic medicine boasts the use of therapies from natural sources vs. chemically derived pharmaceutical medicine.

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Supplementation is another area dancers have had some experience for quite a while already. Many dancer use vitamin supplements such as calcium, multi vitamins, b – vitamins, etc. However, herbal supplements might be worth considering as well. Turmeric is a powerful anti – inflammatory spice. It can be consumed in your cooking in spice form, in capsules as a supplement or as a tea (golden “mylk” latte anyone)?!

You put so much stress and pressure on your muscles you could likely use a rub down. Massage is one of those alternative therapies dancers don’t invest in often enough – likely because it’s pricey. However, it’s really worth the investment. Maybe save up your change or $5 – $10 here and there over the month then when you have enough money book a massage and enjoy every second.

Next time you’re dealing with pain or injury you might consider a Naturopathic Doctor.

“Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.  The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.”(1)

In the areas of food, weight and body image many dancers would benefit from a Health Coach. Health Coaching is not about specific macronutrient or calorie recommendations but rather focuses on the mindset around food and ones body, balanced nutrient dense food decisions and lifestyle shifts to make healthy eating easier.

Health Coaches differ from Dietitians but I wouldn’t say one is better than the other. They’re different and depending on the specific support you need you’ll likely benefit from one more than the other.

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The topic of cross – training comes up a lot in the dance world. In talking with a coaching client the other day she said she was feeling totally confused about it as she’d been reading conflicting reports. Yoga, however, if you choose the right kind can be totally restorative and a part of your alternative therapy playbook.

When I first started experimenting with yoga I found that I preferred Hatha over Vinyasa as it required holding poses vs. flowing through them. I liked how different the intention of the movement was from what we go for in dance. If you’ve tried yoga, try at least 3 – 4 different styles and instructors before determining whether it’s for you or not.

Alternative therapies are worth trying. Before just defaulting to drugs or traditional medicine do you research. See what else is out there. Ask around. Research what other athletes or performers have done to get and stay healthy.

It’s always valuable to get a second opinion. In the area of health coaches or nutritionists, find a person you’re able to connect with who understands dance and what’s required.

(1)American Association of Naturopathic Practitioners

Alternative Therapies for Dancers

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Health Coach and founder of The Whole Dancer.

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