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Getting to the "Steady State" - Recovering from Injury for Good

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This article is written by Dr. Alexis Sams, one of BTB's partners! Dr. Sams spoke at the Healthy Dancer conference last year and owns her own practice where she works with dancers, athletes, and dance studios to help dancers recover from injury quickly, effectively, and permanently.


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Understanding the injury experience and keeping injuries gone for good.





Does your ankle still bother you? That one that you sprained a few months, or a few years, ago? The one that doesn’t feel the same way ever since you tweaked it during that rehearsal?

Or how about your groin strain? Or your plantar fasciitis?

The injury experience can be tedious and frustrating, especially to dancers who get little to no recovery time and who are expected to do unnatural things with their bodies often. So understanding the stages of an injury can be crucial to recovering safely and quickly. 

More importantly, it is imperative in keeping injuries from reoccurring.

So what exactly is the “injury experience”? AZ Dance Medicine Specialists breaks down the life of an injury into three phases when working with dancers: the acute phase, the post-acute phase, and the steady state.



dancers, injury, pain, ballet injury


The Acute Phase. At AZDM, the acute phase of injury starts the moment the injury occurs. The injured area has significant pain, often keeping dancers out of class. There may be swelling surrounding the injured area. There may be difficulty moving the injured area or bearing weight through it. During this phase, it’s obvious that something is wrong and dancers will do anything to fix it.

The Steady Phase. The steady state is the last phase of injury. This is the complete opposite of the acute phase; it’s the finish line. There is no pain or other symptoms of injury and dancers have returned to pre-injury performance levels without difficulty. They are healed!

The Post-acute Phase. This is the middle phase and the most problematic phase of injury recovery. This is the phase where dancers often get “stuck” regarding their injury.







Why do they get stuck? Because during the post-acute phase the pain, swelling, and symptoms of the injury are mostly resolved. The injured body part can move and there is the ability to dance. With the symptoms gone, many dancers return to the studio and stage eager to get back on their feet.


However, with an injured area that isn’t 100% healed, it holds them back in some way when dancing. It also increases the chances of worsening the injury in the primary area or getting injured in another area.




Dancers who get stuck in this phase typically start building an injury history, many times to the same side of the body, all because they did not allow their initial injury to fully resolve. They will bounce back and forth between this state and the acute state indefinitely until full injury recovery is allowed to occur.

So what can you do to make sure you stay in the steady state after an injury?

  1. Get examined by a dance medicine specialist (DMS). Make sure you’re examined for pain, swelling or difficulty dancing that lasts more than 48 hours. 
  2. Make sure you actually get to the steady state. Follow your DMS’ plan of care in its entirety. They want to make sure you get back to dancing as quickly, but also as safely as possible. Follow their instructions until your injury is fully resolved and you are released from their care. Remember, full recovery doesn’t have to take forever and doesn’t mean you can’t dance while you’re recovering. Just make sure you fully recover! 
  3. Remember, you have an injury history. When an area is injured it’s never quite the same in terms of structure and function, even once you’ve reached the steady state. You likely won’t need to alter your dancing or lifestyle, but you will need to stay mindful of past injuries to avoid future ones. 
  4. Conditioning is key. Stay in the steady state by integrating dance-specific conditioning activities into your warm-up and workout regimen. Keeping your body strong and stable around the area of injury with consistently will keep you in the steady state and decrease your risk for re-injury.






injury prevention, PT for dancers, physical therapist for dance





Dr. Alexis Sams, PT is the owner of AZ Dance Medicine Specialists in Phoenix, Arizona. With more than ten years of physical therapy experience and 20 years experience as a dance instructor and choreographer, Dr. Sams opened AZDM in 2014 to address the wellness needs of performing artists.





AZDM provides injury prevention and physical therapy services, wellness screenings and education, and rehearsal coaching to dance students, professional dancers and instructors around the world. To learn more about AZDM or request a service, visit www.azdancemed.com or email them at info@azdancemed.com.





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