How to Safely Dance through Growth Spurts
Though you might be more vulnerable to injury, you can stay healthy during a growth spurt if you listen to your body. “Injuries are not a direct cause of a growth spurt, but they are concurrent with growing people as they are training in ballet,” says Dr. Steven J. Anderson, who treats dancers from Pacific Northwest Ballet and its school. “Acute injuries are hard to prevent, but chronic issues start gradually.”
If pain has been consistent for more than a week, Anderson advises simple measures such as icing, cutting back on strenuous movements (like pointe work, jumps and lifts). If the pain persists or escalates when you work back to your normal routine, see a doctor or physical therapist. Anderson notes that any aches or pains that last longer than a week or are accompanied by swelling, loss of joint motion, numbness or instability, warrant a trip to a medical professional. “If you wait too long, saying to yourself ‘I can work through the pain,’ you may end up with a stress fracture,” says Anderson. Don’t be shy about letting teachers or parents know that you’re feeling tighter than normal or experiencing new aches and pains.
A healthy diet helps too. When Henry learned that potassium, vitamin D, calcium and magnesium could help her rapidly growing body, she began to eat more green, leafy vegetables, beets, sweet potatoes, yoghurt, black beans and fish. Good nutrition, plus a summer off, helped her recover from a bout of stress fractures in her shins and deal with persisting leg cramps. Don’t’ skip out on sleep or meals as growing bodies need both rest and fuel.