Magazine article Dance Teacher

Combating Cramps

Magazine article Dance Teacher

Combating Cramps

Article excerpt

Simple ways to prevent and relieve pesky muscle spasms.

Miami City Ballet corps de ballet dancer Christina Spigner has always suffered from foot cramps. But the problem was especially troublesome during the company's 13-show run of Ballet Imperial, a hallmark of Balanchine's demanding choreography. "We're onstage for such a long time and not just standing and posing, but doing a lot physically," says Spigner. "My feet would cramp up and it was painful. That's a hard thing to recover from onstage."

The sharp pain of muscle cramps can compromise a dancer's work. Though the annoyance sometimes stems from unavoidable fatigue, it's often the body's way of flagging a nutrition deficiency. While completely eliminating muscle spasms may not be possible, there are many simple ways to help prevent and treat their pain and frequency.

Megan Richardson, a certified athletic trainer at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, points out that muscles function by repeatedly contracting and relaxing, engaging and releasing. "When the muscle gets tired, it won't work as well as when it was fresh," she says. "It may have a delayed ability to release after it has contracted," causing a cramp. Spasms are sometimes inevitable, regardless of how well a dancer takes care of her body.

Drink Up!

When a muscle cramps up, it may mean the dancer is dehydrated. Because we are predominantly made of fluid, water intake affects all the chemical processes in our bodies, including proper muscle function. Allison Wagner Eble, a registered dietitian who works with the Cincinnati Ballet, says the body's ability to perform can decline as much as 10 percent with just 1 percent of fluid loss.

The average person should drink 64 ounces of water daily, but dancers need more, depending on how active they are and how hot the studio is-Wagner Eble suggests 16 ounces, two hours before class, and half a cup every 15-20 minutes throughout. …

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