I am a dancer. I have been dancing since I could walk.
“Oh, you dance. That’s cute.”
I grew up in a competitive studio life and was a dance teacher in Scottsdale, Arizona. There weren’t shows like So You Think You Can Dance and World of Dance when I was younger. Unless you were part of the dance world yourself, the general public had no idea about the level of intensity required from dancers. We know this still happens today.
My injuries started as a young teenager: a sprained ankle on a trampoline, another while dancing in character shoes, strained muscles, and eventually, back pain so intense that there were days I had to miss school. In high school, I carried Advil and Aleve with me at all times to get through the pain so I could keep dancing. I danced 4-5 days a week about 5 hours each day and eventually, the pain became too much.
Dancer bodies are different.
I spent years seeing medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, specialists, and a psychologist (because eventually, they said the pains were just in my head) — and none of these professionals understood how a dancer’s body worked and why we do what we do.
It was frustrating explaining to doctor after doctor what I routinely put my body through, only to be met with blank stares and occasional nods. They just could not grasp it. I’d lament in physical therapy about not getting my leg to [touch my] head, only to be met with a shrug and a “that’s good enough” …but it wasn’t good enough for me and it certainly wasn’t the best I was capable of doing.
Doctors would schedule x-rays and prescribe pain pills which I couldn’t take because they made me too loopy to dance. They told me to sit out, just wait 4-6 weeks, take some pills, I would be fine. That answer wasn’t good enough for me.
So I danced and pushed myself as hard as I could until I couldn’t take the pain anymore. I took Advil before and after class, icing the pain when I went home and took Epsom baths every other day. I tried sitting out for a week or so, and I swear the pain worsened sitting out and watching everyone else dance.
My plan was to move to Los Angeles to pursue my dream of becoming a professional dancer. Then my back went out during my very last recital. Someone else had to get into my costume and I watched her do my part from the audience. After that horrible night, living in such physical pain without any answers, I knew I couldn’t move away from home. I quit dancing and it was the hardest decision I ever made.
Fast forward 5 years, my back goes out again. After some [a lot of] research I found an internal medicine doctor from my hometown of Chicago. After describing my years of back pain without a diagnosis, he ordered an x-ray and an MRI. At that point, I had clocked in over 30 x-rays on my back but had never had an MRI. The doctor explained that since x-rays were not leading to a diagnosis, an MRI may provide more information.
The MRI revealed a horseshoe kidney and confirmation from my doctor, “well dear, you are f-k-d up!” I was stunned. Between trying to recall the shape of my kidney and wrapping my head around the fact that my doctor cursed, I remember crying from relief. I finally had an answer.
Dance Specialist Exist!
Because I was young and “just a dancer” many doctors didn’t think my problems were a priority.
What I needed was a Dance Specialist: a trusted professional who could have told me specifically what to do to get right before a competition, what to modify to stay in dance, and when to sit it out.
Our goal with Doctors for Dancers is to connect the dance community with targeted health and wellness resources. Dancers need a professional who understands the specific needs of a Dancer body— someone who can help them mentally and physically get back to dancing as soon and as safely as possible whether you are a student competing, a dance teacher unable to teach, or a professional dancer unable to work a job you just booked. We know from personal experience and from hearing so many other stories: working with a Dance Specialist can change your life!
I am a dancer. My family and some of the best people I know are dancers.
We created this for you. XO