Monday, March 3, 2014


You overdid it on stage or in  the studio it and now  you’ve got a minor injury, like a muscle strain or a sprain.  Unfortunately, we’ve all been there.  If you’re absolutely certain you haven’t done major damage to yourself, you can probably treat the injury at home. If there’s any question in your mind, definitely make a doctor appointment sooner rather than later. But either way, now is  the time to employ R.I.C.E, the acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.

 Problem is, many dancers-even those with more experience- have a really hard time with all of it. Resting for a dancer…are you kidding? No, I’m not; baby that injury! Take a breather, you’re gonna need it so you heal up quickly, don’t make things worse… and can keep on dancing in the near future.

 Compression and elevation are both no-brainers. We’re all familiar with elastic wraps  (like Ace bandages) and various types of  sports tapes. Compression will aid in decreasing the swelling by preventing vasodilation, which is really just a fancy word for your blood pooling in the area where you injured yourself.  Just make sure you haven't wrapped  up too tightly. Elevation will help reduce swelling too. It will also keep  your blood from pooling by propping the injured body part up on a pillow- optimally above the level of your heart- while you’re resting.
 Yeah, I said rest. Again.

  Oddly enough, many dancers balk at icing their injuries.  Here are the two reasons why:

 Ice is rather uncomfortable (that’s an understatement!)

 Because they don’t know how to ice properly.

 Icing is super-important in the first forty-eight to seventy two hours after an injury. I know you probably like heat because it feels better… but when you’ve gotten a soft tissue injury like a strained muscle, ligament or tendon, the capillaries that supply blood to that area have also been injured. They actually rupture and leak into the traumatized tissue, causing bruising, swelling, stiffness and pain. Heat will exacerbate the situation; ice will alleviate it by causing your blood vessels to constrict, which basically stops their leakage…and nips the swelling, bruising and pain in the bud. It won’t stop it entirely, because that is our body’s natural response to trauma, but it will help it to heal up much more quickly.

What’s the best way to ice?

 First of all, you should never apply ice directly onto your skin, or you’ll risk damaging that tissue, too. To protect your skin, always use an ice pack with a covering, like those commercial soft gel packs with the soft flannel or fleece on the outside. If you don’t have one of those on hand, cover your skin with a thin towel or washcloth before applying ice.

 The nice thing about the medical gel packs is that they conform to the shape of your body-specifically, the injured area. If you don’t have one on hand, a package of frozen fruits or vegetables, will do the same thing, just make sure you protect your skin by covering it-or the vegetable package- with a towel before you apply it.

 You can also make a really inexpensive homemade version gel-pack. Mix one cup rubbing alcohol to three parts water, pour it into a large, durable lock-seal plastic freezer bag, and keep it on hand so that it’s ready to go when you need to ice your boo-boo.

 You’ll probably want to ice your injury at least a couple of times a day, three to four times is generally better. The area you’re icing will determine how long it should be done. For example, the skin on your ankles or feet is much thinner and way less dense or fatty than that of your upper thigh.

Quads, hamstrings, hips and knees need about twenty minutes of ice; the wrist, elbows, feet or or ankles needs about ten to twelve minutes, not more. It’s important that you don’t go over these time limits, too!

 While you’re icing, the injured area will first feel cold, then you’ll most likely experience a burning sensation. After that, your flesh becomes numb.   When you’ve reached the numb stage (or just after- set an alarm) remove your ice pack, and take at the very least an hour before re-applying the ice.   Keep doing this for three days, or the afore-mentioned forty eight to seventy two hours.

 After this, check with your doctor about follow-up treatment, the use of heat as well as ice, and remember to rest.

 A good thing to keep in your dance bag is one of those “instant” cold packs, the kind you shake to activate the ingredients… they’re inexpensive, and will work just fine til you get home and settled and can ice your injury properly.

 With R.I.C.E—and the correct and safe use of NSAIDS and icing, you should be able to make a full recovery and get back into the studio or onstage soon!

  If you liked this  article and want to read more  tips on dance as a lifestyle,  get  yourself a signed copy of “The Belly Dance Handbook” here:

Photo and design by Maharet Christina Hughes