You might think that physical therapy is only necessary when you’re recovering from an injury. While that is certainly a primary role of physical therapy, dancers can benefit from incorporating it into their daily training. Working with a physical therapist—especially one who has experience with dancers like those at The Harkness Center—can perform a physical assessment to reduce your risk of injury and help you make the most of your facility. First, your therapist will analyze any strength and flexibility imbalances. As an expert, they will be able to discern where the imbalances stem from and give you exercises to help you improve your flexibility, strength, agility, and stamina.
Even at the professional level, you’ll see dancers—from prima ballerinas to Broadway stars—performing their physical therapy exercises before rehearsals and performances. What’s more, these warm-up practices can reinforce good form when you’re dancing (i.e. firing up your core, finding your turnout muscles, engaging your upper back, and utilizing the back of your legs.
Here are some of the many benefits of physical therapy:
Recovery from injury or trauma
Reduced pain (and helping avoid dependence on pain medication)
Improved balance, mobility, strength, and endurance
Understanding “good” pain (i.e. working hard/building muscle) versus “bad” pain that can lead to injury or burnout
Greater knowledge of human anatomy and how to work with your own body
You often will need a doctor’s prescription (due to an injury) in order to see a physical therapist. You can always ask your teachers what imbalances they notice and research simple PT exercises online. The Harkness Center is also a wonderful resource for dancers and frequently offers Injury Prevention Assessments and Seminars in New York City.