5 Ways Massage Helps You Dance Better

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Dancers are some of the most dedicated, resilient, creative and athletic people I know. They can train for hours and hours on end, through injury, blisters, Tarkett burns - you name it they’ll do what they can to push through.

However, a common downfall for dancer’s is that they often overlook their physical health or feel as though they can’t afford to take time off to look after themselves, and then get stuck when injuries or fatigue set in.

It is always easier said than done, but small consistent acts of self-care can assist in physical endurance and improve physical performance. Massage is one of those tools that can improve the way you dance, recover and prepare for that big show or audition.

Below are my TOP 5 points how massage can make you a better dancer!

1. Recovery

Dancers like a lot of other athletes, often push their limit to work towards their next goal. Whether that be performances, auditions, higher extensions, assessments, strength, or making it to the end of year, each dancer is driven and dedicated.  This drive sometimes prohibits a dancer’s ability to know when to take a break. Taking a break doesn’t always mean stop everything! You can take it easy, adapt your workload or even simply have a massage treatment and let someone else help your body recover.

Recovery is a key aspect in dance. Without the ability to return to normal state of health we physically suffer and struggle to perform at our desired level. A classic thing my mum would always say to me is “don’t burn the candle at both ends”. Classic mum...but I now have a bit more understanding and appreciation for it. You cannot drive on an empty tank and the same applies for your body. Jumping between rehearsals, technique classes, performances and then trying to get some downtime - bodies are pushed to their limits! The candle is well and truly burnt at both ends.

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How can massage help you recover?

Massage is a key element in assisting recovery. Its key features to assist recovery are:

  • Relaxes tense muscle tissues

  • Increases blood flow, which then assists with the body’s ability to heal.

  • Can improve your physical recovery time by helping decrease post workout soreness (DOMS)

  • Gives you an hour of down time to recharge your mind. No effort or thought required!

What style/kind of massage should you be getting for recovery?

We want to assist the body with what it’s already good at - repairing, healing and finding balance, so in a massage treatment we don’t want to overwhelm or aggravate.

Massage techniques and styles used for a recovery massage are:

  • Soft tissue

  • Relaxation

  • Sports massage

  • Deep tissue massage

The type of massage you get is influenced by your immediate activity schedule. For example, do you have to perform tomorrow as well? Or, are you finished with a performance season? If you're in the middle of performances, it’s best to avoid deep pressure treatments as we don’t want to aggravate or release too much that your body's normalcy is altered.

2. Body Maintenance

Think of the maintenance you put into other aspects of your life.

Weeding the garden, going to the dentist, changing car oil and going to the gym. They are all different types of maintenance. So why not look after your only body with the same care? Small acts of body maintenance will help refresh, maintain and assist your body to work how you want!

How does massage help maintain your body?

The goal is to have proactive massages rather than reactive. That means…you need to keep on top of those niggles and aches, rather than responding to them after the fact. The best thing you can do for yourself when an ache isn’t settling or you’re feeling rundown, is to get things treated!

Massage with a maintenance purpose will help manage those ongoing areas of soreness, you can work towards improving posture and flexibility and generally feeling better! You may not always need to book a full hour. If you’re wanting a targeted treatment for specific stiffness, sore muscles or tightness a 30-minute treatment could be perfect.

Book a 30-minute massage here

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What kind of massage should you expect for maintenance?

The kind of treatment you want and need, will be determined by your initial conversation and assessment. From the assessment your massage therapist will be able to determine what tissues need to be targeted and will use a variety of techniques to treat.

You can expect to be treated with:

  • Soft tissue massage

  • Deep tissue massage

  • Trigger point therapy

  • Mobilisations

  • Stretches

3. Performance

Performances come in different forms - Auditions, exams, concerts, daily classes or even in the center of the dance floor at a bar on Friday night! Often coming into a performance season, you are already carrying some niggles, soreness and are mostly likely tired from all the preparation. Massage can help work through any soreness, assist in warming you up in preparation for the shows and can even help remove those lingering bits of tension.  

Pre-show treatments are generally going to be using sports massage techniques. Quick strokes, at a medium to light pressure generally lasting 10-20 minutes. This ensures increased blood flow to your body which helps get you warmed up and prepared.

Post-show treatment is similar to recovery. It is dependent on your continuing schedule for how you should be treated. Don’t forget you can use trigger balls, foam rollers, bands and other management tools to help reduce post performance soreness too!

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4. Mobility

Dancers are some of the most flexible people you will ever meet, but we all didn’t start out that way!

Dancers go through rigorous stretching and conditioning to enable them to move the way they want.

However, some people are genetically predisposed to being tighter. Even though they put in the work for flexibility, it doesn’t always transfer physically the same as others.

This is where massage comes in!

Massage can:

  • Increase your flexibility. Work on lengthening those tight muscles, targeting trigger points and promoting muscular length

  • Decrease your muscle tone and help promote a calm at ease muscle

  • Can increase your range by stretching tissues in the range you want to improve

  • PNF stretching (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) i.e. stretching and contracting the targeted muscle group

What type of massage should you expect?

Think of this massage like a stretch session. To increase your mobility, you will be treated with a range of techniques which are best suited to you. Even if you are super flexible but feeling tight in particular areas, massage is still applicable and can help.

You can expect to be treated with:

  • Soft tissue techniques

  • Deep Tissue

  • Trigger point therapy

  • Active and passive movement release techniques

  • Joint mobilisations and more

Put simply, expect the treatment to target particular muscle groups. The aim is to increase your range of movement, by releasing what may be inhibiting how you move, while lengthening those tighter muscles.

For more information on mobility, check out our blog, 9 Ways To Test If You Are Hypermobile!

5. Body Awareness

Getting massages is a great body reminder. It helps discover areas of tension, provides relief, can increase mobility, and can be just a feel-good hour!

This treatment is more up to you in terms of what techniques the massage therapist will use.

A general massage is great for:

  • A general body ‘reminder’ is great for ongoing maintenance

  • Helps locate different areas needing attention

  • Lets you relax and can be a treat for yourself!

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Massage is a great tool that you need to remember to use. If you’re short on time or money don’t forget you can self treat! Check out these guides below!

Self treat using trigger balls, foam rollers, massage sticks or even…your hands!

If you’re looking to improve on an aspect in dance keep in mind how massage can help!

Take care of yourselves dancers

Don’t forget, YOU are the priority - don’t neglect your bodies, you need them!

Now break a leg!


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