Feeling sore, achy, or tight? Get in line. Ballet is strenuous on your body and much of what you do in class is meant to build up your muscles so that later on you will be strong enough to execute more advanced steps and get through a 2 hour show without collapsing. Ballet dancers are athletes, and just like athletes we need to take care of our body, so we can keep training and improving. If you are a dancer, I guarantee at some point your will feel sore. There is no getting around that, but there are many great ways to take care of your aches and pains.
Sore muscles is simply lactic acid build up in your muscles. Stretching before and after class helps dancers break up that lactic acid and get it out of your muscles.
When you are asleep, your body is able to use its energy to repair your muscles. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t have enough time to patch you up. Get to sleep early and let your body do its thing.
Lay off the Sugar
Sugar is dehydrating, which can lead to tight muscles and muscle cramping. If you had a tough workout, don’t go home and eat a bunch of sweets. Instead drink lots of water and eat foods high in protein and amino acids.
Lay off the soda. A can of coke contains more sugar than 6 donuts. I know it tastes delicious, but all that sugar will come back to haunt you.
Find Professional Help
Dancers move and bend their bodies in all sorts of unnatural ways, which means that sometimes our backs go out of alignment. When your back is out of whack, the muscles around that area can get unbearably tight. If you routinely feel tightness in a specific area of your neck or back, you may need the help of a professional. It is very common for dancers to get regular adjustments from a chiropractor. Many dancers also receive routine sports massages or visit a physical therapist to monitor and relieve tightness.
Epson salt is a natural mineral that sucks lactic acid out of your muscles. Draw yourself a hot bath, poor a cup of epson salt into the water, and soak for 20 minutes. During Nutcracker season I used to drag my broken body home and take an epson salt bath every night. The next morning I was recharged and ready for the next show.
The other wonderful thing about epson salt is that it is cheap and easy to find. Go to any CVS, Target, Wal-Mart, or grocery store and you will usually find it on the bottom shelf of the sore muscle or first aid aisle. I use it so often that I’ve added it to my Amazon Subscribe and Save order. $7 bucks and it miraculously shows up on your doorstep.
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and your body uses it to repair your muscles and nervous system. You can soak in it or take it orally. Either way it will do wonders for your aches and pains. I personally get epson salts with magnesium in it to enhance my bath time. I also take a magnesium supplement once a day, whether I’m sore or not. This helps me prevent muscle tightness before it starts.
3. Amino Acids
Every day, I like to take an amino acid tablet along with my Magnesium supplement. Amino acids are used to repair muscles. Many meats are great natural sources of amino acids, but if you are an athlete pushing your body to its limit every day, then you may want to consider taking a daily supplement as well. 1 a day after class is great for younger students. More advanced students and professional dancers should try taking 1 tablet 3o minutes before they start dancing and 1 tablet at the end of the day before they go to bed.
Water is your body’s best defense. Water is akaline, which means it helps to flush out impurities in your body including lactic acid and sugar, which both cause sore muscles. Drinking lots of water before and after a dance class is a sure fire way to keep the aches and pains at bay.
Don’t like drinking boring old water? Add lemon juice or get yourself a flavor infuser bottle and add your favorite fruit. It’s all natural and guaranteed to tickle your tastebuds.
5. Tiger Balm
There are tons of gels like icy hot that can help temporarily relieve muscle pain, but none of them smell as good as Tiger Balm! Seriously. Every time I use it, someone remarks on how good it smells.
The main reason Tiger Balm is better than other topical products like Icy Hot, is that it doesn’t just mask the pain. Tiger Balm’s ingredients actually help draw out the lactic acid in your muscles, which means your muscles will feel better even after it wears off.
Ballet dancers spend a lot of time on their toes and it is very common to get foot cramps. These foot massagers are great to have on stand-by in your dance bag. Due North Foot Rubz are my favorite, but there are tons of great options out there.
Got a spare tennis or lacrosse ball? Those work great too!
7. Foam Rollers
Foam rollers utilize gravity and the weight of your own body to massage muscles. Rollers are effective and easy to use, which is probably why they have quickly become a must in every professional ballerina’s dance bag. Tight hip? Roll it out. Sore back? Roll it out. Cramping calves? Roll it out.
My favorite foam roller is the TriggerPointe Grid Foam Roller. It’s not too long, which makes it easier to transport. Its ridged design covers a wide range of needs and the hollow body design makes it easier to fasten to my dance bag when I’m on the move.
There are a lot of great heat pads out there, but Salonpas is by far the best at pain relief and usually the cheapest, which is a win in my book.
Salonpas’ pain relieving patches are great for pain relief during dance class. No matter how sweaty I get, they stay stuck on and the cooling sensation lasts for 8 hours.
After a tough class, I like to use their hot capsicum patches. They last for 12 hours and stay stuck on way better than other brands.
The Body Back Buddy was recommended to me by my physical therapist and it has been my best friend ever since. This tool is used to relieve tension in muscles by focusing on trigger points. Have a knot in your muscle? The Body Back Buddy will get it out.
Each Body Back Buddy comes with a manual to teach you how to use it and get the most out of your new tool. It has a bunch of different pressure points knobs, each specially designed for different muscle groups. Young or petite dancers should try the Body Back Buddy Junior for a better fit.
When all else fails, Pure Wave’s Massage Wand saves the day. At $108, this massager is way more expensive than any other product on this list, but it is worth every penny. Since getting this tool, I have not needed to see my physical therapist or get a massage. If you are a serious dancer or athlete get yourself a Pure Wave wand.
I have to credit my wonderful husband for finding this one. He spent hours researching and comparing massagers, before getting me this amazing tool. Now I can’t live without it.
I’ve tried massage chairs, straps, you name it, but nothing has ever come close to the Pure Wave Wand. Most massagers move in a circular motion which isn’t always conducive. You are always tethered to an outlet and the strength settings are usually very limited. Pure Wave however, is cordless, it pulsates, has a wide range of intensity, and it comes with tons of components for every type of massage you could ever want.