Unsolved Mysteries: Dancers & the Pelvic Floor

6/30/2022

Dancers are uniquely attuned to their bodies. Their proprioception is off the charts, their calibrations for balance is a sight to behold, and their athletic range is unmatched. They meet the demands of power, subtlety, and depth from their fingers to their toes. More often than not, dancers can describe to their healthcare providers what is or isn’t happening in the finite corners of their bodies. As a dancer myself, I am proud of these attributes when I walk into my physical therapy appointments. I can tell you how my left elbow feels and experiences space, time, and its own structure at any given moment. I understand my elbow’s role in port de bra just as much as its role in rond de jambe. I love having this awareness and curiosity about every inch of my body… or so I thought. 

Surrounding my pelvis there is exploration a’plenty – I can fold, react, stretch, twist. My pelvis itself is an engine, a source of power and pivot. The inner workings of my pelvis? I thought nothing of it. If someone had asked me, I probably would’ve likened it to the knee – a space among big bones full of ligaments, cartilage, connective “stuff” helping to suspend my many organs. Something somewhere deep, undetected by radar, lost and perhaps meaningless to my knowledge... Atlantis? Beyond primal human functions, not much happens “down there.” Any conscious happenings, from dancing to controlling the urge to pee on a road trip, had to come from friendly neighbors: inner thighs, glutes, and abdominals. It wasn’t until my Physical Therapist Assistant degree did I learn that I have a whole set of muscles INSIDE my pelvis that can tighten, relax, and react just like any other muscle in my body… a world undiscovered by even those prideful of body awareness. Atlantis! 

If my college anatomy course didn’t tell me this, should my parents have? Do they even know? Is this something my dance instructors should have eluded to while teaching the whole-body experience of grand plié versus sous sus? These were some of the tangents my brain ran down as I learned about the pelvic floor’s many roles, its dynamic relationships and implications within the body, and the myriad of opportunities for dysfunction. THEN my brain began to tumble through all the ways dancers; through training, the culture and subcultures, the language used, the “ideals” of perfection, burnout, and body image; are perhaps not set up for success in this area… hmm! 

But what are the implications? Did it matter to the dancer in me that I didn’t understand this part of my body? Do educators and PT professionals need to understand that the nature of dance itself makes artistic athletes ripe for dysfunction? YES. I believe there are real implications. I believe, for the sake of long careers and happy humans, that dance professionals should be much more aware of pelvic health, function, and contributions. And, I believe, the best physical therapy teams understand both their patients AND the worlds in which they operate in order to deliver the best, most effective care. In the coming months, Empower Physiotherapy is going to help its readers contextualize and break down the dance world’s unique need for informed pelvic care, and how to help!

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Are you a dancer or dance professional with a pelvic floor? 
*cough* yes, everybody and every body has one ;)

 

Are you a PT Professional, pelvic health speciality or not, treating artistic athletes? 

 

Just curious?

GREAT! 

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