The Injured Dancer

Posted by on 05.06.2015

The ballet stage has a way of creating a fantasy world of perfection:  beautiful men and women adorned in glistening costumes dancing together in perfect unison.  Off-stage it’s a whole different story.  Not only is the road to the illusion of perfection a difficult one, but often comes with setbacks.  This is a story that is often discussed in dance circles, but rarely laid out for the audience: The injured dancer.

With only two weekends of performances left in the season, at 5pm on an April afternoon in a rehearsal for the following day’s performance, vacation came early for me.  Amazingly in the moment when a dancer gets injured, the pain is not the primary focus.  We analyze what performances and rehearsals are coming up, who can cover our spots.  We are terrified of what we will be missing out on.  My diagnosis is a stage two ankle sprain with torn ligaments and bone bruises. It could have been so much worse and I was truly grateful!  This was the first time in my 9-year career where an “event” took me off stage.  I was stunned.

I was put in a cast, given crutches, pain meds, and anti-inflammatories, but nothing hurt more than looking at the clock that first Friday night at 8pm from my sofa, knowing that I should be onstage in full makeup, pointe shoes, and full of excitement for an evening of dancing.  Sitting in the wings, or on the sidelines if you will, is the hardest part of being injured; knowing that you were supposed to be out there participating in a special moment.  Our careers are short and any injury can be devastating.  Every moment onstage is a gift for us and we just hate to miss out.

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via @bexking on Instagram

Thankfully, the season came to an end; I would no longer be missing out on rehearsals and performances.  But soon a new frustration started to set in.  I felt myself taking two steps forward, and then what felt like ten steps back.  And let me tell you, the crutches and huge “robot” walking boot were no help in the matter.  I spent some quality time with on my couch with ice packs binge watching on Netflix or Hulu (Is anyone looking for any show recommendations? I’ll steer you in the right direction), knitting leg warmers, reading books, painting my nails, and napping like it was my job.  (In fact, your body does the most of its tissue healing when you are asleep, not that I need to justify nap time.) I upped my intake of water and anti-inflammatory foods (I have a whole list for those if you are interested).  I did all my exercises, was at the gym nightly trying to keep the rest of my body in shape, elevated my foot, donned my compression socks, and applied arnica three times a day.  Each day I considered sitting down in front of the computer to start blogging…. but what would I write about? I felt low on inspiration.  So what do I have to show for these three weeks of perfect behavior and taking good care of my injury?  Progress, not as much as I would have liked, but progress none-the-less.

PATIENCE!  That is my word of the… well, next month or two.  What I am realizing is that it is important to do everything you can to take care of yourself, but sometimes your body just needs time.  The human body heals on it’s own schedule, whether you like it or not.  And by doing everything I could for my body, I did help it along the way: I am no longer in a boot, I am walking on my own, and I can drive!!! Amazingly, that’s actually the most exciting thing.  Driving opens the door to more care: PT, acupuncture, and long walks on the beach. (OK well maybe not yet, but hopefully soon.  I am sure that should be one of my exercises right? Sounds like it would be the right thing.)

Ask any dancer and they will have an injury story from their career, and most will likely be worse than mine.  No matter the severity, injuries are a journey, and I am looking forward with positivity.

As part of my new “patience routine,” I plan to share my experiences and search for new inspiration right here on TENDUS.  So I hope you will join me on my Summer of 2015 Healing Journey.

And while I search for blog post inspiration, I implore you, dearest readers, to leave me a comment ask anything you want! Is there something you have just been dying to know about the world of professional ballet? Leave your questions below.  <3

For more, make sure you are following me on Twitter and on Instagram: @bexking.  And if you don’t already, like TENDUS on Facebook.

 

7 Comments

  1. It was really inspiring to read about your journey to recovery! It’s a reminder that it’s going to take time fully heal my ankle injury. And that eating well and exercising does help even if I don’t feel results as quickly as I hope to.

    • Thanks Bethany! Good luck with your recovery! We can do it. 🙂

      • Thank you so much! !! Yes, we can! !

  2. Awww. No questions, but definitely wish you good healing. Please take care of yourself and soon enough (but not soon enough for you, I know) you will be back onstage. Wishing you the best.

    • Thanks so much Karen!

  3. What is on your list of anti-inflammatory foods? Also, where do you get arnica and what does it do? Finally, would you recommend compression for a tendon injury?

    • Hi Carly! Thanks for your questions. Here are the anti-inflammatory foods:

      Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially dark leafy greens.
      Minimize saturated and trans fats.
      Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.
      Watch your intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
      Eat plenty of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
      Eat lean protein sources such as chicken; cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
      Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
      Spice it up. Ginger, curry, turmeric, cinnamon, and other spices can have an anti-inflammatory effect.

      You can find Arnica at any drug store or at Whole Foods. I use the gel. It is a natural pain reliever for minor injuries and bruises. It also helps with swelling. I have not had a tendon injury in a long time, so I don’t feel comfortable answering your last question. It would be best to ask your doctor or a Physical Therapist.

      Great to hear from you!

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