Dancing is stressful on tendons, but you can decrease that stress with a good tendon health routine. Don’t wait for pain to start to take it seriously, especially if your DanceRX genetic testing discovers a variant that may predispose you to tendon injury (see Pt 2).
Ankle tendinopathy (tendon injury with damage to the collagen fibers) is one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries in dancers. In fact, according to this study, it is second only to hamstring strains. So, let’s talk about how to make them more resilient.
First, let’s discuss the most overlooked, yet, key to tendon health – fascia pliability. What the heck does that mean? Let’s break it down.
What is Fascia? Fascia is a web-like connective tissue that surrounds each individual muscle, bundles of muscles, and between our organs… and our tendons. See how it encompasses the entire muscle-tendon complex in this example:
Fascia connects us from head to toe! Check out this dissection of the fascia from tongue to toes – so amazing!
Fascia provides support & compartmentalization, but also is highly covered in nerves. It has even more recently been discovered that fascia is actually embedded with muscle fibers. Meaning, it can contract and relax, and it can do so independently of the muscle it surrounds.
Taking all of this into account, we now more clearly understand that fascia communicates messages of tension to the brain, via nerves, and contributes to the pull, via contraction/relaxation, on our tendons. We can now also shift our thinking of fascia as simply a passive structure that responds to mechanical stress. When we want to change fascia, we should now realize it is not about creating force, but about STIMULATING CHANGE.
What does PLIABILITY mean? To summarize, it means “resilient, adaptable and free”. In order to optimally handle the stresses of dance, your entire body should be really good at this!
So, how can we keep our fascia pliable? First, it is important to understand that fascia is embedded with several different types of nerve endings. Each responds to a different stimulus and creates a different response. Read details HERE. A multi-tiered approach is best: A combination of pressure (i.e. rolling, pressure point treatments); Muscle Contraction (i.e. active release); Vibration (i.e. massage gun); and Tension (specifically lifting & gliding).
There is quite a bit out there about those first 3, so what I want to encourage you to add into your routine is lifting & gliding, via a really simple technique – dynamic cupping!
How it works: A flexible, silicone cup is used to suction (lift) the fascia & surrounding tissue. With the tissue lifted, we can then manipulate it in several ways:
- Multi-Directional Oscillations
- Gliding the Cup
- Keeping Cup still while actively moving
Watch a video demo here: Fascia Cupping Demo
How do you decide where to apply the cups? Most likely, as a dancer, you could really benefit on fascia pliability pretty much anywhere. Your body is good at giving you clues to where you need it most. A cranky tendon (most often the Achilles, the tendons of the feet & ankles, and the tendons of the hip flexors in dancers) is a clue that the muscles above & below that tendon are lacking pliability. For example, when you feel tension and/or pain in your Achilles, you likely need help with pliability of the calf muscles and the plantar fascia. Another clue is a muscle that commonly feels tight and achy. Use the cups or your hands to feel for areas that don’t glide easy, or that feel “gristly” or “crunchy” when you go over them. Those are more specific areas to focus on.
How long/often should you work on any given area?
When you are leaving a cup in place, I recommend starting at 3 min and gradually increasing to 5 min. When actively gliding the cups, you can start at 5 min total time. Again, there are several places to work on, so focus on 1 area for a few min and move on.
You will want to give any area you’ve worked on a day or 2 to recover/respond before doing it again. Work toward every other day for those consistently troublesome areas.
Will it leave marks?
Maybe. But it is absolutely not necessary, nor is it the goal. Remember, the idea is STIMULATING change, not forcing it. But we are increasing blood flow usually to areas that have had restricted flow for a while. Temporary redness is pretty much guaranteed, but those dark circular marks are usually a sign of one of a few things:
- A cup was left in place longer than needed
- That area is really one that needs work
- The area that needs work is close to the skin’s surface
- You have a tendency to bruise more easily
If you absolutely want to avoid marks, don’t keep the cups in place longer than 30 sec at any one spot (or avoid the static hold technique altogether); don’t press the cup in as far into the tissue before releasing to create the suction; assess your response so you know how to adjust next time.
Where to get cups & ointment:
Order your cupping recovery kit here: Cup Combo Kit (4 gliding cups of various size & 2 static cups)
The DanceRX CBD Body Balms are the perfect consistency and add some healing & relaxation properties to the mix: Shop – DanceRX – Genetic Personalized Wellness (godancerx.com)
No frills ointment that is the right consistency: Albolene Amazon.com: Albolene