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Preventing Salsa Injuries
by Dafina Biteye

Is it important for you to attend the next salsa event, mambo class, or social?  Does
the thought of sitting around nursing an injury just piss you off?   If so then it’s likely to be important to keep your dancing machine in good working condition.  The repetitive moves, crowded dance floors, dancing in heels, body awareness, dance skills, and your history of physical wellness are some of the factors you need to take into consideration in order to help prevent injuries.

One factor is repetitive moves, which can be turns, or going over and over shines or a sequence during a class or  rehearsal. By doing repetitive moves you get a chance to learn the movement but you get a good chance of over working a specific group of muscles..  This over works  the muscles used and can lead to muscle strain.  A strained muscle can knot up and go into spasm leading to localized pain, swelling and a decrease in the range of motion.  If you happen to over work a joint injuring connective tissue there it’s more likely to tear a ligament causing a sprain.  A sprain will cause you will feel a sharp pain followed by rapid swelling. Sprains more easily occur at your knees, ankles and along the spinal column of your back.

Old injuries can contribute to limited range of motion, muscle spasms, atrophy of muscle leading to weakness in muscle groups or joints making you more susceptible to injury. 

Accidents and trauma, these  acute occurrences can lead to chronic conditions of pain and discomfort.  It is possible to feel as if the injury caused by the accident has healed then sometime down the line a seemingly unrelated discomfort or painful conditions arise.

Stress can lead to both emotional and muscular tension.  Tension blocks the free smooth flow of energy and blood.  Improper posture while sitting at the computer or talking on the phone or an improper height for your desk or chair can contribute to muscular tension.  A lot of people dance to get rid of tension and help manage stress, which is  excellent to do,  There are times when there is to much in your dancing.  Tension can contribute to making you less aware of the dance floor or your partner.  

Dancing is in itself a risk factor for injury.  In order to be safe on the dance floor defensive measure are necessary.  Dancing with someone who leads you to strongly can lead to shoulder and upper back injury.  Dancing with someone who leads you all over the place with  turns on a crowded dance floor can lead you into collision course with other dancers and throw you off your center. Dancers have come away from the dance after someone has stepped on the top of their feet causing black and blue marks.  Dancing with a partner who is not sensitive to your level can be another accident waiting to happen..  It is important to take classes to develop a level of skill and safe sensible habits on the dance floor.  We have so many wonderful teachers take advantage of their knowledge.  As a women if you feel that someone is on the dangerous side politely decline to dance.   While in a class if you find that guys  are executing movements that cause you discomfort then bring that to the attention of the instructor for clarification.  You can verbally communicate your concern to your partner.  And finally you can stop dancing in order to protect yourself. There will be another song and another partner soon. 

Excessive weight is another risk factor --  61% of adults in this country are obese.   We do see some overweight salsaros and  salsaras on the dance floor.   The extra weight puts extra stress on all of your weight bearing  joints.  That extra weight can contribute to chronic back pain and extra stress of the knees and ankles.

Let’s look at some things that can help you stay on the dance floor more safely longer.  Stretching exercises and yoga helps to move blood and energy to and through the muscles while helping your flexibility. Range of motion exercises are important, especially if you have prior injuries to a joint. Range of motion exercises help to supply blood to a joint.  If you have an area that has been weaken then it's important to do strengthen that area .   

Relaxation, breathing or meditation can be helpful if you feel  emotionally stressed.  It is a good idea to exercise the feet, pointing and flexing at the ankle and curling the toes helps with strength and flexibility of the feet.  Wearing the proper shoe is important as well as shoes which provide good support for the ankles

Properly hydrating with water when doing a lot of dancing helps to move toxins produced by the activity out of the muscles.

If you happen to incur an injury it is very important to handle it well to quicken the recovery time and protect yourself  from developing a chronic condition. An acute injury calls for the first aid application of RICE, and a visit to your physician if the injury warrants it.  RICE is an acronym which stands for R-rest, I-ice, C-compression, E-elevation.  When your body sends you those pain signals it is demanding that you discontinue whatever you are doing.  It is important to listen to your body say stop.  Something is wrong now.  If you force yourself to work through that pain you can make your condition worst. A ligament tear may be able to heal with a few days rest.  However, if you insist on dancing on that painful ankle today next week surgery may be needed to repair the damage. I have seen people damage themselves into a life time disability.  After an injury avoid anything that causes pain.

Immediately after an injury apply cold in any form you can get your hands. An ice pack is ideal, cold water, cold paper towels, ice cream, frozen vegetables will do temporarily.  Use clothing or a piece of cloth to protect the skin from direct contact with the ice.  The ice constricts the blood vessels which reduce the localized bleeding and swelling .  Ice also helps prevent the muscles from going into spasm..  The average time to ice is 20 minuets. You can damage the skin and nerve ending with prolonged exposure to ice.  In the bony areas of the wrists and ankles application of ice can be 10 to 15 minutes.  Immediately after the injury you can apply ice every two hours the first day.  The following days you can apply ice at regular intervals 4 to 5 times a day.   It is important to ice the first 1 to 3 days following an injury.

Compression is the application of an ace bandage, or wrap.  Compression prevents fluid accumulation, reduces swelling and pain.  Use the elastic wraps to prevent causing to much constriction cutting off circulation.   Elevation of the injured area above the level of the heart can help reduce swelling.  The purpose of the RICE is to provide the body with the mechanism to reduce swelling at the injured site quickly which in turn speeds up recovery.  Swelling can cause damage to the cells which contributes to pain, muscle spasms and limited range of motion. It is of the upmost importance to ice to get rid of that swelling quickly.  Once the swelling has been reduced the energy and blood can  move more freely through out the body.

I want to recommend two items that are very helpful for pain conditions ranging from soreness from over exertion to severe pain of an injury. The two items are homeopathic Arnica (see Editior's Note & Warning below) and Traumeel .  They are homeopathic over the counter preparations. Homeopathy is a form of medicine that uses very small amounts of a substance to stimulate the body’s own defenses to heal. Homeopathic remedies can safely be used by all ages and do not interfere  with the action of supplements or medications.  Homeopathic remedies lose potency when touched, taken after eating onion, garlic or using mint flavored toothpaste or strong smells like Vick’s Vaporub. Homeopathic remedies provide you with a healing energy.  Arnica specifically “relieves pain, stiffness, and swelling associated with minor falls, blows, bruises, sprains, and strains, simple back aches, sports injuries, and over exercising, and makes black and blue marks go away faster”.  You can ingest arnica pellets and/or use an arnica gel topically on unbroken skin.  You can use arnica after overworking your muscles and after an injury.  Traumeel contains arnica, in addition, to other homeopathic remedies.  It too is used to relieve pain, inflammation, and swelling for acute and chronic conditions.  The arnica comes in different potencies.  It is recommended that you use 6c or 12c potency.   The Traumeel does not come in different potencies.  I do suggest you keep both on hand as a part of your first aid kit.

Editor's Note & Warning:  Medical problems, allergies and side effects, some very serious, have been reported with the use of Arnica and its interaction with other drugs, herbs and supplements.  Please see Potential Dangers With Arnica.

The information provided here helps you to be in charge of preventing injuries and to take some basic necessary steps to deal with acute symptoms of injuries should they occur.  In doing so you help to prevent chronic problems.  However, there are times when you may need some professional work.  Acupuncture is an excellent healing modality which helps alleviate pain both acute and chronic pain.    



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