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  • Ally Gavigan:
  • 30 April 2015

Hip pain in dancers

All athletic pursuits can bring with them issues of overuse. Dancers are no exception.

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The demands of dance, such as constant stretching of the leg from the hip, can lead to snapping hip syndrome. Hip pain, while it can affect dancers of all ages, tends to be more common in dancers who are becoming increasingly skilled and extending the hours of practice and preparation for competitions.

What causes Hip Pain?

It is entirely possible that this pain can be brought about by exhaustion and possible damage to the muscles of the area surrounding the hip joint.
There are four main muscles in dancers that can cause hip pain. These are: rectus femoris, sartorius, psoas and iliacus. If any of these muscles are injured or otherwise damaged, in order to protect themselves, these muscles could go into spasm which will affect the biomechanics of the hip joint. This could result in decreased flexibity of the hip joint. After this happens, possible compensations can start which include some lower back stiffness and knee pain on the injured hip side.
Treatment covers a number of options. The first and most important thing is to speak with your doctor, physiotherapist, or, if preferred, chiropractor. However, while the condition can be cured with the correctly advised treatment, it can also heal on its own. If there is no pain then you should not be overly concerned, but seeing a doctor will, of course, give you confidence.
The physio or specialist will work on correcting the specific range of possible biomechanical abnormalities, which could include the stretching of tightened muscles, in order to prevent recurrence.
Any self-treatment solutions I offer will always come with the advice that you should first seek professional advice from your doctor or specialist who will determine the underlying pathology and tailor a suitable regime or therapy to help you get better.


Stretching of the tight structures (piriformis, hip abductor, and hip flexor muscle) may alleviate the symptoms. The involved muscle is stretched (for 30 seconds), repeated three times separated by 30 second to 1 minute rest periods in sets performed two times daily.

RICE method— this stands for: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation — to relieve the pain and get back to dancing.

Using RICE for Hip Pain Relief:

• Rest. Which means avoiding the activities that cause the pain. “It might mean dancers stop dancing for a few days and then start back up slowly--never overdoing the practice--and then seeing how it goes. I advise resting for at least 48 hours.

• Ice. Applying an ice pack to the area where you’re feeling the pain can reduce inflammation and make your hip feel better. If hip pain is very intense, use ice 4-5 times a day for 10-15 minutes at a time. An ice pack can be anything from a plastic bag filled with ice, to a bag of frozen peas. Wrap a towel around the ice pack to avoid irritating your skin.

• Compression. Wrap a thick Ace or stretch bandage around the pelvis and hip.

• Elevation. Elevating a painful joint can reduce swelling and help relieve pain. It’s easier to elevate your ankle or knee than your hip, but it’s still possible. In any case, lying down with your feet up increases the benefits of this part of the therapy.

Stretches That Ease Hip Pain

Stretching and exercising can also help, as long as you’re not experiencing too much pain when you do them. This is a good set of points to consider, after dance or even during any kind of exercise:
Cool down at a slow pace for five minutes, stand with your right side facing a wall. Put your right hand against the wall and slightly bend your right elbow. Then pick up your left foot and cross it over your right foot. As you keep your right leg straight and your left leg slightly bent, slowly move your right hip toward the wall and hold the stretch without bouncing. You should feel the stretch in your right outer hip and thigh.
To repeat the stretch on the opposite side, turn so that your left side is facing the wall. Cross your right foot over the left and lean in toward the wall with your left hip, being sure to keep your left leg straight and your right leg slightly bent.

When you get back to class, how do you know if you’re working too hard?

Any sharp pain is a sign to take things easy. In addition, if your hip pain comes during class, or even a few days afterwards, Stop!! Going back to dance after rest may result in a little discomfort but this should decrease as you work through the class.

My little girl absolutely loves her Irish dancing shoes, they are perfect and the fact they come from near her granny and we live in Australia amazes her.

Debi - Australia
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