Patience with rehabilitation is not easy for ballet dancers. Muscle pulls are rarely serious, but without proper treatment and rehabilitation, they can become a chronic situation.
With the hamstring muscle, which is involved in every ballet position and ballet movement in the lower body, special care is needed to keep it relaxed and stretched properly after ballet class.
The hamstring muscle, at the back of the thigh, must be strengthened to ensure that it is not out-powered by the quadriceps at the front of the thigh, causing imbalance in the body structure. If the quadriceps muscle is much stronger that the hamstrings, which is the usual case, it can pull on the hamstring muscle and cause injuries.
Other imbalances such as the misalignment of the pelvis can also lead to extra tension in the hamstrings. Chiropractic care is a necessary routine for would-be ballerinas and men in ballet.
Patience to warm up before class, and then afterward, to cool down with relaxed stretching, (meaning not in a rush, not when your mind is already focusing on something else), is extremely important for the hamstring. It is a large muscle with a plentiful blood supply that is capable of creating substantial inflammation and scar tissue once the muscle is pulled.
Growth spurts can cause imbalances as well, resulting in temporary loss of balance, flexibility and strength.
Without understanding these factors, well-trained and serious ballet students will struggle to work harder, endure a little more pain, and may become very frustrated when the expected optimum results don't show up. They might feel that they should be adding some cross training or more ballet classes. However, this will only irritate the hamstring injury.
Once a hamstring is pulled, and on the mend, stretching to do the splits should only be done after use of the pinky ball (as described in the dancing smart series) on the hamstrings, quads, gluts and even calves (why not while you're at it). And of course after a full class when you are at your warmest. Then stretch to feel a stretch, not to feel pain.
It's often a month or two after a hamstring pull, that the muscle will feel well again, with the best of care. With no special treatment, the muscle will be unwell, with the condition possibly lingering for months.
Work your best in ballet class to avoid injuring the hamstring muscle. Don't stretch with partners. Exercise patience with rehabilitation, and see a chiropractor or physio therapist for help. Strengthening and stretching properly will get you the best ballet positions, as well as years dancing in ballet shoes and pointe shoes.
Last update : Monday, 12 January 2009