Updated: Feb 26, 2019

What is an “iliopsoas” and why is it so important for dancers?

By Rachel Sutter-Leve, PT, DPT

Psoas also known as the Iliopsoas

Ever heard of the iliopsoas muscle? Most performing artists have heard a lot about this infamous muscle, yet know very little about it. Growing up as a dancer, I had people tell me it was “tight”, “weak”, “short”, or my favorite “on vacation”. But I always wondered, what exactly is this muscle and why is it so important?!

The iliopsoas is the primary flexor of the hip when the leg is above 90 degrees. So that means all of those beautiful extensions you want are going to come from this muscle. The iliopsoas is also one of the muscles that helps align your hip within the socket, reducing the chance of impingement and discomfort at the front of your hip flexor. Have you ever experienced “popping” or “snapping” in your hip? While this type of sensation can be due to a number of things, a common culprit is muscle imbalance around the hip joint, and the iliopsoas is a very important part of this! When you use the psoas correctly, you can often eliminate the popping, snapping, and pain in the front of the hip that comes with a hip impingement.

So what should you do about it? Treating the iliopsoas needs to be multifaceted. Merely stretching your iliopsoas may provide temporary relief but likely will not be a long term solution. The good news is that with a personalized program of strengthening exercises combined with stretching exercises, some manual therapy, as well as technique modifications, this muscle can get stronger and help you improve your technique and reduce the risk of injury.

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

How strengthening the right muscles can relieve low back pain

By Rachel Sutter-Leve, PT, DPT

Back pain is a common complaint of dancers. Some dancers experience an episode of excruciating, sharp pain while others report that it slowly crept up over time. Regardless of whether it was the latter or former, pain in your back can be a season ending or career changing injury.

The most challenging part of having a back injury is knowing what to do about it. A quick google search online can leave you with more questions than when you started. Should I ice or heat? Should I rest my back or should I try and keep moving? Does my back need to be strengthened or is it overworked? All of these are really common questions we get at the clinic, and the answer is not as simple as “yes” or “no”. Ice can be helpful in reducing inflammation, but heat can also help relax muscles. Likely a period of rest is indicated following a major injury, but we also want you to keep moving .

The easiest question for me to answer, however, is the last one. Do I need to strengthen my back? Yes! One of the most common causes for repeat back injuries are not just weak back muscles but specifically weakness in the back muscles called the “multifidi” or “multifidus”. While you have many back muscles, the multifidus is a special one because it not only functions to stabilize you, but it also functions to move each separate bone in your back so that you can get that beautiful articulation you need for dance. Strengthening the multifidus can be challenging but it is well worth your time. One study showed that a weak multifidus can not only cause pain in your back but also in your hips!

So, the next time you are wondering what is causing this constant ache in your low back, consider the multifidus. Come into the clinic and we can check it out!

1: Gildea JE, Hides JA, Hodges PW. Size and symmetry of trunk muscles in ballet dancers with and without low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2013 Aug;43(8):525-33. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2013.4523. Epub 2013 Apr 30. PubMed PMID: 23633627.

what to do next:

By Rachel Sutter-Leve, PT, DPT

We have all been there... you are in the midst of executing an absolutely perfect pirouette when all of a sudden you lose your balance and you roll your ankle. Like the hardworking dancer that you are, your initial reaction is to pretend like nothing happened and get right back to dancing. But you realize soon enough, that won’t work this time and you limp off towards the barre to try and "stretch it out".

Ankle sprains are one of the most common types of athletic injuries in dancers, so if this has happened to you, rest assured, you are not alone! The most frequent type of ankle sprain is an “inversion sprain” where the foot rolls inward and you injure the ligaments on the outside of your ankle.

So what should you do about it? Here is a step by step guide:

  1. Get off your foot and (RICE)- Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation

  2. After you have done the above, try to take a few steps on it. If you are unable to walk, go to the doctor. They may want to take an x-ray to make sure you don’t have a fracture.

  3. Give your ankle some support by temporarily wearing an ankle brace. If you are unsure of what to buy, contact us and we can make a recommendation.

  4. Once the swelling and the pain have subsided, begin gently moving your ankle until you have gained back all of your range, then work on strengthening.

  5. Schedule a PT appointment. One of the greatest predictors for a repeat ankle injury is weakness in your ankle stabilizers. A physical therapist can evaluate your strength and decide what needs to be worked on to prevent this type of injury from reoccurring.

What if you hurt your ankle walking down the street, we can still help!