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What Should Dancers Know Before Seeing a Doctor or Other Medical Professional?

It’s ok to be scared and fear is a normal feeling, but how can we work through some of these unknowns? Here, we share a few tips that can help you prepare and get the most out of your experience with your doctor, physical therapist, or healthcare provider!

When a dancer is told that they need to see a doctor due to an injury or illness, there’s probably quite a bit of fear.

  • Fear that doctors will not appreciate the demands of dance.
  • Fear that the dancer will be told simply “just stop dancing”.
  • Fear that the dancer and their family may not know the questions to ask to get the most out of the visit.

Before your visit:

Dress ready to move- and don’t forget your shoes.

When going to a medical facility, don’t be afraid to bring pointe shoes, character shoes, and dress in a way that allows you to move comfortably. It is extremely difficult to examine a dancer’s hips and knees if they’re wearing tight jeans. Coming in dance outfits or athletic apparel will allow a more comfortable and complete physical examination.

Have a list of your goals (not instructors, parents, or even fellow dancers).

Come to the visit with an idea of upcoming rehearsals, performances, competitions, intensives, and other events. Ideally, you, as a dancer, should help decide which are the most realistic and important in your recovery journey. Don’t be afraid to speak up and let everyone in the room know your targets. If there is a show coming up soon (like this weekend), have a realistic discussion about the risks/benefits of performing and possibly worsening an injury or prolonging recovery.

Don’t be afraid to share some videos.

Be prepared to tell the doctor what movements and techniques cause the most pain.

Now, you may fear that the doctor does not understand or have a clue about dance positions and movements. This is where videos can be quite important. Bring videos of you dancing for a good visual illustration of those movements or techniques that are the most concern for you.

During your visit:

Be a student of your own body.

Try to be as accurate as possible when describing where you hurt, the type of pain or discomfort (sharp, burning, stabbing) and what movements make discomfort better or worse. Using a fingertip can be quite helpful in identifying the location of pain. Also be aware of any swelling, numbness, tingling, or other abnormal sensations that should be shared. Don’t limit focus to just a single painful joint. Oftentimes knee pain may be triggered, in part, by limited hip or ankle motion. So, if you are seeing the doctor for a knee injury but your hips are also hurting, speaking up and giving the full story may likely contribute to a fuller recovery. Often, our joints are related to each other so it may help your doctor to build a comprehensive picture of you and your situation.

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