Dancers, imagine that you're landing a grand jete -- when suddenly, your knee pops! Anterior knee pain (AKP) is an insidious cause of knee pain that affects 33% of dancers It often starts with a scenario like the one we just described: the knee begins to grate or pop, before progressing to stiffness, swelling and pain.
This repetitive use injury can put a damper on dance class, or even end your career if you're not careful enough. But when jumping and turning (an unavoidable part of dancing) causes your knees to absorb anywhere from three to 12 times its body weight, how can you prevent AKP?
Our answer: hot and cold therapy to the rescue! Among other natural, at-home remedies, hot and cold therapy is one of the best ways to promote a speedy recovery from AKP. Over the course of this blog post, we'll explain our reasons why we love hot and cold therapy for managing knee pain in dancers -- and why knee pain in dancers develops in the first place.
Causes of Knee Pain in Dancers
The most common cause of knee pain in dancers is patellofemoral syndrome, a condition in which the knee becomes misaligned due to poor tracking. In dancers, patellofemoral syndrome can result from insufficient turnout, which causes excessive torque in the knee.
Other injuries that may lead to AKP in dancers include:
- Patellar tendonitis, otherwise known as "Jumper's Knee." This is when the tendon that connects the kneecap to the tibia becomes inflamed.
- Bursitis. The knee contains small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae that cushion the joint. In bursitis, these sacs become inflamed.
- Tears and sprains. One of the more common injuries in dancers is the meniscus tear. However, increasing numbers of dancers -- especially young athletes -- are tearing their ACLs.
How to Relieve Knee Pain in Dancers
Once the damage is done, it's time to think about alleviating knee pain so you can get back to dance as soon as possible. When suffering from an injury, it's important to follow your doctor's recommendations as to when you should resume your regular activities. However, here's what you should know before you go back to dancing to help you relieve knee pain caused by dance:
Learn to land correctly from a jump.
If you're suffering from AKP or a knee injury, your technique may need some work. Pay special attention to the way you land from jumps to ensure you're bending your knees deeply enough to absorb the shock of your weight.
Strengthen the hamstrings during your warmup.
Incorporate moves like side-lying hip abductions into your warmup routine before dancing. These exercises will strengthen the muscles surrounding your kneecap so they can better support the knee while dancing.
Reduce inflammation through RICE.
When in doubt, always remember the acronym RICE, which stands for Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation. Look for a cervical ice pack that wraps securely around the knee with a band to hold it in place.
Know when to use heat vs. ice.
Ice is important for reducing inflammation, but there are times when heat may be more appropriate for your knee pain. Use heat for stiff or strained muscles to increase mobility, as ice is better suited for acute injuries. Ideally, use heat before dance class to limber up and stretch the muscles, and ice your injury after class to reduce inflammation.
Still wondering when you should use heat vs. ice? Here's are some handy points to remember when it comes to heat and ice for knee pain in dancers:
Use Heat When….
- Your knee pain is due to sore or stiff muscles, not an acute injury
- Your knee pain is chronic or due to an old injury
- You want to loosen up muscles and increase blood flow
- You want to warm up the muscles prior to dance class
- You don't think inflammation is the cause of your pain
Use Ice When….
- Your knee pain is due to an acute injury, not chronic or lingering pain
- You have injured your knee within the past six weeks
- Your knee is swollen, red or inflamed
- You want to decrease inflammation or pain after an activity
The Best Hot & Cold Pack for Knee Pain
If you're looking for a great hot and cold pack that wraps around the knee, try our Cureve Large Hot & Cold Therapy Gel Pack with Wrap. Our multitasking large gel pack includes a wrap with two straps for securing the pack around the knee (or other joints). Don't forget to check out our other bestselling hot and cold products for further relief!