Stress management and finding alternative treatments: an undergraduate dancer’s perspective.

Undergraduate Contemporary Dance Student Bethan Cooper is in her final year at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and has been doing work experience across both the Health and Dance Science departments. As part of her time with us she has written a blog piece focusing on stress management and the use of alternative treatments. You can read her thoughts below:

Stress management and finding alternative treatments

So what are the common causes and effects of stress on the dancer? With Independent Project season coming to a close and Commissioned Works, Historical Project and Performance Project fast approaching it’s a demanding time for dance students. What can you do to keep your body healthy (and injury free) so that you can get the most out of it?We know the basics:

  • Eating well
  • Staying hydrated
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Effective warm ups and cool downs…

But sometimes bodies can become overwhelmed by sudden changes in practice, so it is important to notice any aches, niggles or complaints before they become bigger problems.

Have you ever noticed an awkward “jump” in your movement whilst executing slow or fluid material? The body is very good at managing itself and finding solutions to problems, and will continue to compensate in many amazing ways until these problems become more substantial. In order to prevent injury, it can be valuable to seek treatments that will contribute to your overall wellness.

It is important to find the right treatment for you, be it physiotherapy, acupuncture or maybe a super intense sports massage! However, occasionally a non-invasive approach will be beneficial.

Why choose Craniosacral Therapy?

Craniosacral treatment is a more holistic approach, where practitioners use light touch, encouraging the body to heal itself. Clients can enjoy a gentle and relaxing hour where the body can take its time to absorb and realise small changes. The treatment aims to work not only with the body, but with the person as a whole, and so has psychological benefits too! This attention to the person as a whole can help address injuries, but also underlying issues behind the injury.

Practitioners work with the fluids and fascia in the body (the connective tissue that holds us together). A particularly important line of fascia for dancers is The Deep Front Line – a long line of tissue connecting the toes to the tongue (and linking muscles such as the psoas and diaphragm along the way).

AnatomyTrains

http://danceproject.ca/dancers-and-the-deep-front-line/#.WTVn0ZLyvcs

There are also links between Craniosacral Therapy and many of the somatic approaches used in dance – practices such as Alexander Technique or Feldenkrais, which can all be relevant and supportive to your release-based training!

TL practitioners

Marina Collard uses her years of knowledge and experience of dance to inform her practice, making her the ideal practitioner for us dancers! She believes the treatment encourages clients to find a heightened sense of awareness in themselves and their bodies. This kind of physical enquiry can support dancers in optimising the body they have, keeping it open and available for movement. The treatment can also aid stress management; allowing clients time to slow down, inhabit their bodies and reach a more embodied state.

If you would like to know any more about Craniosacral Therapy treatment or have any other queries please contact the health department via the Trinity Laban website www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/health or email health@trinitylaban.ac.uk .

Bethan Cooper

BA3 Contemporary Dance Student, Trinity Laban

 

 Musicians, don’t cramp your style!

In the last 20 years musicians’ medicine has become increasingly popular. But are musicians aware of the prevalence of injury and how best to treat them?

An article published under The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM) couldn’t have said it better…

‘Musicians should think of themselves as athletes.’

musicians

The physical and psychological demands that come hand in hand with being a musician, are no different to that of a dancer or perhaps even a rugby player?! It is essential that Musicians are attentive to their physical needs, limitations, and work, to condition their bodies accordingly.

The repetitive nature of a musicians’ repertoire, lengthy rehearsals and performances, tests posture and muscle strength, so it probably comes as no surprise that the vast majority of injuries sustained include repetitive strain, lower back pain and Tendonitis, to name but a few. However a study of 1046 musicians conducted by BAPAM in 2004, suggested 52% of injuries recorded were due to performance-related issues, such as overwork and incorrect practice or technique when playing their instruments.

Having said this an injury or trauma can be sustained by simply completing a harmless day to day activity, therefore it is essential that the treatment process is managed with the musician’s instrument and the demands of the lifestyle at the focal point. When assessing and treating a musician, a holistic ‘whole body’ approach is paramount- regardless of the type of treatment, the plan should be tailored to the individual artist!

All musicians face limitations, the physical dimensions of an instrument requires the musician to make adjustments to the body, muscles and tendons can be put under strain or ‘unusual’ positions during this modification. To maintain a high performance level, musicians may need to take preventive action or seek treatment that can help strengthen essential core muscles or correct muscle imbalances, thus keeping those dreaded repetitive strain injuries at bay!

Reduce the risk of time away from your passion…

PHYSIOTHERAPHY works towards improving your physical performance and reducing the risk of further injury by developing a biomechanical understanding of how you play. Forms of treatment can range from exercise referral, postural analysis (taking your instrument into consideration), manual mobilisations, dry needling and taping where necessary. These techniques collaborate to address the factors mentioned above, focusing on building strength to support and stabilise muscle imbalances and weaknesses.

ACUPUNCTURE is the balance of energetics of the mind and body. Chinese medicine techniques boost the uptake of oxygen and dissemination to our muscles, thus minimising those pesky cramps. Working to relieve tension, throughout the body it is a saving grace for shoulder and back pain. Did I mention its holistic approach to the body, treating headaches, anxiety and insomnia?

PILATES is a great tool for musicians. A typical Pilates class includes exercises to build or ‘restore’ endurance, flexibility, trunk and pelvic stability, muscle balance, strength, and efficient breathing patterns. Every one of these can help a musician to play a longer repertoire with less fatigue.

SPORTS MASSAGE works to relieve muscle tension as well as improve circulation, flexibility and posture. Whether it be through soft tissue release, trigger point, muscle energy or general massage techniques, this form of treatment can help bring more awareness to the body and decrease pain. Sound good? It can also tackle anxiety and restlessness pre or post performance, reduce stress and improve our overall wellbeing.

Prevention is better than cure!

It is handy to know what treatments are appropriate for musicians and their specific needs but as always remember the aforementioned!! The key to any injury is prevention – intense practice (although sometimes unavoidable) should be limited and performed in moderation.

Try taking regular breaks and work towards conditioning and maintaining a strong body by introducing warm ups and cool downs to your practice. If possible gradually increase the intensity and duration of your practice and restrict yourself to reasonable playing times- we know this may be a tricky one!

For any other information regarding the best treatment for YOU and what we offer at TL Health please contact us on  health@trinitylaban.ac.uk or 0208 3059479/0208 3059482.

Remember a clear and open communication between health care professionals, teachers and most importantly Performers will aid in effective Injury Treatment and in the long haul- PREVENTION!

 

Jessica Coleman

Graduate Intern for Health & Dance Science.

BA (Hons) Dance and Professional Practice, MSc Dance Science.

 

Core Stability for Performing Artists

We often hear the terms ‘engage your core’ or ‘use those core muscles’ in the performing arts world but just what is ‘the core’ and how do we use it?

The core

The core refers to the trunk of the body and the muscular system which aids in providing support and stability for the spine and pelvis. When we think about the core we often think first of the external musculature, the muscle which gives the ‘six pack’ appearance, a.k.a the Rectus Abdominis, but there is much more to the core than this muscle alone.

Let’s break the core up into two groups: anterior muscles and posterior muscles

Anterior muscles of the core

These are the muscles located at the front of the trunk and they include: the Rectus Abdominis which is important for moving the rib cage in relation to the pelvis, Internal and External Obliques which together control rotation and side bends, and the Transversus Abdominis which is often referred to as the ‘corset muscle’, it helps to compress the ribs, not unlike a corset, to aid in spine and pelvic stability.

anterior core

Image: http://leanmuscleproject.com/abdominal-muscles/

 

Posterior muscles of the core

This group of muscles are located at the back of the trunk and they are: The Erector Spinae which is a bundle of muscles and tendons that lie in the groove at the side of the spine and help the spine rotate, the Deep Multifidus which is an important stabiliser of the lower back before the limbs move, and the Quadratus Lumborum, connecting the pelvis to the spine, assisting the diaphragm in inhalation, and in flexion of the trunk. Two other muscles which help to stabilise the trunk and are often not considered are the Lower Trapezius and the Latissimus Dorsi which help to depress the shoulder and aid in side bending movements.

posterior core 2

Image: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/build-your-core

Other important muscles of the core

In addition to the anterior and posterior muscles of the core there are three other important muscles which include the diaphragm, the pelvic floor and the Iliopsoas. Learning to engage these muscles correctly can facilitate core stability and help to further support the link between the upper and lower parts of the body.

side vie

Image: http://stoneathleticmedicine.com/2014/01/low-back-pain-in-runners-in-a-battle-of-muscle-supremacy-evil-prevails/

 

So just what is core stability and why do performing artists need it?

There is often more of a focus on strengthening the core with a large focus on planking and abdominal exercises e.g. sit ups and crunches, however working on the external core muscles alone can lead to key weaknesses in supporting the whole body in movement.

Core control involves more than just strengthening the abdominals it involves coordination of muscles to support the spine, it is all about creating a stable base from which the limbs work.

Until there is a level of stability in the core, it will be more difficult to safely achieve a level of strength in the core throughout dynamic movement.

Core stability and injury

Another reason why performing artists require core stability is to aid in the reduction of injury risk. If we lack core stability it has been suggested that we are more prone to lower limb injuries, back injuries and it has also been suggested that a weak core could contribute to shoulder injuries, all of which are common across performing artists. Consider a dancer lacking adequate core stability, placing unusual demands on the body which could apply additional loading to the spine and pelvis area, or a musician simply carrying and holding their instrument in a position which is not natural for the spine. Core stability can aid in these types of movement and help to protect the back and pelvis and ultimately the limbs.

 

Effective and safe ways to train core stability

So we want to train and enhance our core stability but how do we go about it in a safe and effective way? Firstly understanding the anatomy of the core and each muscles job can go a long way to understanding how to train them to do the role they are meant to do. It is then important to train all of these muscles collectively, to avoid excess strain on the more superficial muscles (e.g. Rectus Abdominis and External Obliques) the deep muscles must be working too (e.g. Transversus Abdominis). Finding a training programme which involves a combination of strength, endurance, power and proprioceptive work will help to train the muscle’s patterning, exercises which involve balance work and resistance work which challenges stability is thought to be very effective. Pilates classes/exercises are an excellent way to learn to engage and utilise the core muscle group to enhance its stability. Exercises which incorporate the use of an uneven surface, such as air discs or BOSU balance trainers, will aid in the training of balance and proprioceptive awareness and will challenge the core further.

If you are a performing artist and you are considering enhancing your core stability make sure you train safely, targeting those deep muscles too, both at the front and back of the trunk, it’s not always about crunches and sit ups!

Felicity Beach

Graduate Intern, Health and Dance Science

Reflection on placement with Trinity Laban Dance Science

Recently I completed a 40 hour placement with Trinity Laban in the Dance Science and Health departments. I gained an insight into the research that takes place at Trinity Laban, the MSc Dance Science programme, and the busy lives of everyone involved in making it such a wonderful and inspiring place to be.

I’m currently a third year student on the undergraduate Dance course at Kingston University and planned to do this placement in the hope of finding out more about the Dance Science world and what career paths I could take in this area. Let’s not forget that Trinity Laban offered the first Dance Science Master’s degree in the world, so it really felt like I was at the heart of all the action, at the number one place to be! It was really interesting to talk to the likes of Dr Emma Redding (Head of Dance Science at Trinity Laban) and Edel Quin (Programme Leader MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban), who both have a lot of experience in Dance Science and have developed the Dance Science course at Trinity Laban. But it was equally fascinating to talk to the Graduate Interns (who had completed the MSc at Trinity Laban), and everyone in between, to discover everyone’s plans for the future.

I was also lucky enough to undertake my placement the same week that the Dance Science department had their Health Interdisciplinary Day, and so I learnt the difficulties of ‘measuring’ results in research studies. I also learnt the difference dance can make in community settings, and the wide range of participants the department work with, whether school children or hospital patients. What I found most valuable, not only on this day but throughout the whole week, was the impact that qualitative data has. Before I started my placement I had only thought about the importance and relevance of quantitative data. Over the week, I learnt that deciding what to measure and recording qualitative changes is really hard, as in the dance field researchers are dealing with the complexity of the human body and not just a ‘lab rat’. The problem the Dance Science world then face is that, given how new and evolving the field is, it is a challenge to guess what kind of research will be awarded funding.

rhiannon

It was also exciting working with Lucie Clements (PhD Candidate and Guest Lecturer), getting a sneak peek into the psychological work the department are currently doing with international colleagues on the motivational environments dancers work in and the type of environment dancers would prefer. This allowed me to learn more about the psychological side of Dance Science.  When I arrived at Trinity Laban I only really had basic knowledge on the physiological side of the field and this is what attracted me towards the area. I left Trinity Laban having more knowledge on both physical and mental aspects, and if anything being more interested into how psychological research in Dance Science can help not only dancers but also other communities.

Overall I can say that I really enjoyed my week long placement in the Dance Science and Health departments at Trinity Laban. All the staff and students were really welcoming, which made every activity enjoyable whether interviewing staff, learning about the equipment in the science lab and conditioning studio, or even formatting documents! Now I have completed my placement I can say I’m even more eager to have a career within Dance Science and so I would like to thank everyone who helped or talked to me during the week.

 

I hope to see you all soon!

 

Rhiannon Bromley, BA Dance student, Kingston University.

Performance Anxiety

performance-anxiety-blog-image

Stage fright, the heebie jeebies, a bad case of the willies. Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure, performance anxiety is the cruel mistress of many performing artists.

According to a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians UK, 75% of musicians said they had suffered from performance anxiety. Similarly, research from One Dance UK demonstrated that 92% of dancers had experienced psychological difficulty in the last 12 months, with over 30% experiencing performance anxiety. But what exactly is performance anxiety, why does it happen, and the big one we all want the answer to; how on earth do we get a grip of it?

Lets get down to the science-y bit. Psychologists seem to agree that anxiety manifests in two key ways; somatically and cognitively. Somatic symptoms are those we experience physically, such as sweating, racing hearts and needing the bathroom, causing us to feel agitated and uncomfortable. They’re all signs that our body is out of sync with its neutral state, signs of physiological arousal. These experiences are common in all pressurised situations, from test-taking, public speaking and sport, to the performing arts, dance and music. For some, symptoms occur long before performance, from early days in rehearsal. For others, symptoms hit us like a tonne of bricks, right out of the blue, when we’re standing in the wings.

Now here’s the interesting stuff. All of these symptoms have something else in common, something which differs vastly from anxiety. They’re all symptoms of excitement. Just like that feeling of waking up on your birthday, or falling in love, they are symptoms that are telling us that we are energised, ready for action, and prepared to experience something deeply rewarding, of great value.

But what about those cognitive symptoms, those we experience mentally such as worry, apprehension and nerves that ultimately can lead us to a mental block? There’s pretty solid evidence that performance anxiety occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands made, and their capacity to meet the demands. The key word here is perceived. What if we changed our perceptions of our symptoms, and our perceptions of performance? What if we changed up our mind-set and tried interpreting those symptoms as a sign of preparedness, and positive anticipation. Research we’ve carried out both here at Trinity Laban, and research by international colleagues, demonstrated that perceiving an upcoming performance as a challenge (a chance to thrive and demonstrate competency) rather than a threat (a chance to fail) lead to decreased anxiety experiences in both the days leading up to and very moments prior to performance.

Next time you have an assessment, performance or audition coming up, notice your immediate somatic response. Your interpretation is key. Is this related to a threat? Or actually, is this an optimal challenge? Is your mental investment really worry, or is thinking about an upcoming audition merely a sign that this is something of real value to you, an exciting experience? Learning to change mental habits is by no means an easy process, but a process it certainly is – which means time, patience and trial and error are key. Reframing your thoughts about your next performance may be the first steps towards managing your performance anxiety, and developing healthy techniques for looking after your psychological wellbeing is just as important as nurturing your dance or music technique.

 

Lucie Clements, PhD candidate Dance Science & Lecturer in Performance Psychology.

Cooldown

The term cool down is frequently referenced within our dance practice, it’s seldom incorporated into our dance sessions by practitioners and is often expected to be a component of our personal structure.

So what is it all about? This article aims to provide you with a background on the subject and to offer suggestions as how to implement informed strategies into your daily dance practice.

cool-down1

Here’s the science bit:

Cool down is also referred to as ‘active recovery’, this involves reducing the heart rate slowly after exercise. The intention is to avoid a sharp decline in heart rate which in turn will facilitate circulation, the removal of waste products, avoiding muscle soreness and cramping.

Some extra information:

During exercise that is predominately focused on your legs, your heart will send blood to those muscles to ensure that you are able to fulfill those movements. This means that there will be a lack of blood circulating from your heart to your legs and back to your heart.

If you were to sit down straight after your dance session your heart rate will plummet and the blood will not effectively circulate back to the heart. The burning sensation that you may often feel after leg intensive exercise is caused by blood lactate, some level of this is beneficial, but if it remains present in your leg muscles after class, it may result in muscle soreness, cramping and poor recovery.

cool-down-2

You could instead try the following:

  • 10 minutes of slowed down dance specific movements from the choreography you were performing, followed by 5 minutes of your favourite stretches
  • If you have just done a workout of weights/ running, cool-down with 5-10 minutes of light jogging on the treadmill/ cross-trainer/ exercise bike
  • Do this at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (use fitbits, apple watches or the heart rate monitor on gym equipment to help you calculate this)

Here’s an example:

If you are 18 years old

  • Subtract 18 from 220

220-18= 202

  • 202 beats per minute (bpm) is your maximum heart rate for intense exercise/ dance

 

To work out the your heart rate for optimal cool-down benefits (60-70%)

  • 60% of 202 bpm= 0.60 x 202= 121 bpm
  • 70% of 202 bpm= 0.70 x 202= 141 bpm

 

So as an 18 year old if you reduce your heart rate to between 121 and 141 beats per minute, you will have the best chance of reducing blood lactate and heart rate.

Your benefits:

  • Following this process will help you to recover properly from your dance classes
  • It will optimise your next performance level
  • Make your body feel more energised and less achy
  • Make you feel less tired and feint after classes

 

Common issues:

“I don’t have time between classes”

If you are heading across to another class your heart rate will reduce anyway. The important thing to remember is to stay lightly active for 15 minutes, this is preferable to sitting or collapsing on the floor.

“But I stretch after my class, isn’t that cooling down?”

Stretching is part of the cooling down process but not the entirety of it. Try to follow this rule:

  1. Light activity at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
  2. Dynamic stretching
  3. Static stretching

In conclusion, developing a better understanding of the cool down process will help you to understand your body. You will be able to control your recovery better during those busy times at university and take care of those dancing legs.

 

Seema De Jorge-Chopra MSc

Dance Science Graduate Intern

 

Post-Exercise Muscular Soreness

Feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson for a day or two after you’ve done a serious workout?

We all know the feeling- stairs? Not a chance.

But why do our muscles hurt so much when we’ve been working so hard?

Post-Exercise Soreness explained.

The DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: refers to the potential reaction our bodies have when we take up a new exercise plan, adapt an existing exercise plan or alter the intensity or duration of regular physical exertion. This may happen regardless of our fitness levels and although often unwelcomed, it can be the sign of a Physiologically Positive Reaction.

DOMS usually develops between 12-24 hours after the activity itself. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘that’ll hurt tomorrow’ but the truth is the greatest discomfort is often experienced between 24-72 hours post-exercise. Although DOMS can be associated with a positive reaction, is often a sign that you need to take a rest, this is useful feedback from your body.  If you are experiencing symptoms associated with DOMS, to include muscles soreness ‘tender to touch’ and reduced joint mobility, this may lead to instability if not well rested. Instability and weakness combined with muscle soreness and fatigue can lead to injury.

What’s happening?

There is some controversy surrounding the cause of DOMS, however most believe that DOMS is the repair process that develops as a response to the microscopic damage of our muscle fibres likely stemming from novel stresses that were experienced during the exercise.

A common misconception is that DOMS is due to lactic acid build up however it is generally believed that lactic acid is not involved in the DOMS process.

Activities which are thought to result in DOMS are ones which cause muscles to lengthen whilst a force is being applied, also known as an eccentric muscle action. There are three main actions; Concentric, Isometric and Eccentric- The notion of a concentric chest press evokes a much more stressful loading onto the muscles than let’s say a handstand where an Isometric action is seen. However eccentric movements such as the lowering phase in a bicep curl are considered structurally, to cause a higher stress level on muscle fibres than the aforementioned. Try and work your way gradually into a new exercise program to help reduce the severity of DOMS!

 There is a fine line between positive, and injury provoking muscular ‘pain’.

Every body is different and you must remember to listen to yours.

As performing artists we should not be working towards ‘pain’. We should only push our bodies to a certain level, and DOMS is a welcomed indication that we have pushed our bodies a little beyond their normal comfort zone. If you do experience pain during an exercise this could be an underlying factor of over intensified exercise or incorrect form, you should consult a medical practitioner if pain persists and exceeds regular DOMS symptoms.

It is important to remember eccentric movements are to be treated as one ingredient within a well-tailored exercise plan, combining concentric and isometric movement will make for a well-rounded workout. Mastering technique, control and stability within movements will lower the risk of injury and in turn DOMS.

Does Massage Help?

Massage is an extensive physiological tool that eases muscle and joint stiffness. The hands on approach of massage works towards reducing tension within the body, combined with passive movements that not only stretch the connective tissues around our joints, but lengthens muscles and tendons too.  Sports Massage may help prevent the onset of injury, work as a tool to rehabilitate and in turn may improve performance. With classes, rehearsals, shows and tours on the horizon pushing bodies to outside of their regular comfort zone, Dancers, Musicians and Musical Theatre performers may consider seeking treatment in order to gain immediate relief for muscle soreness. It can also be applied post-event to remove waste products/toxins, speed up recovery time and de-stress after a performance.

img_0094

Don’t forget TL Health offers Sports Massage where TL Students receive a brilliant discount!

http://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/trinity-laban-health/health-treatments/sports-massage

Jess Coleman: Graduate Intern, Health.