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Promoting Healing: Why Dancers Should Practice Active Rest

Jul 23, 2018
image of a ballet dancers legs

While most dancers will report experiencing an injury at some point during their career, the vast majority will continue to dance and only a small fraction will actually participate in rehabilitation. Why is that?

Based on my combination of research and clinical experience, it’s primarily because dancers don’t want to be told to stop dancing. One way to get dancers to speak up about injuries and participate in rehabilitation is to promote “active rest.” Active rest is the goal of resting an injury while continuing to be as active in a desired sport or activity as possible.

Here are a few of the many activities that can be considered active rest:  


Floor-Barre is a technique that allows dancers to perform ballet specific movements in non-weight bearing positions. This is an excellent way for dancers to maintain their technique, level of conditioning, and participation in class!

Dance Modification

Instead of completely shutting down, an athlete can work on focusing on what they CAN do during practice. This can achieve the goal of resting an injury and allowing the dancer to continue to participate as much as possible. Modifications could include; wearing sneakers, participating in barre only or holding certain pain provoking movements such as arabesque.

Mental Imagery

Mental imagery is sometimes used during the rehabilitation process to promoting healing, increase motivation and practice both rehab exercises and dance specific exercises.

Changing Focus

Increasing cross training and conditioning can often be often overlooked in the dance community, especially in the timeframe before a performance. However, cross training can allow a dancer to successfully rest their injury, while improving their strength and aerobic fitness.  

There are many activities that dancers can do that will promote healing without having to completely stop doing what they love. Parents, dance instructors, physical therapists and doctors can highlight active rest to encourage young dancers to encourage them to discuss their injury and pain.

To learn more about Performing Arts Therapy and Sports Medicine services at Nationwide Children's Hospital, click here.

Featured Expert

Mindy Deno
Mindy Deno, PT, DPT
Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy

Mindy Deno, PT, DPT, graduated from the University of Cincinnati DPT program in 2015. Immediately following graduate school, she began a one-year Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy Residency here at Nationwide Children’s. Following the completion of the residency, she plans to sit for, and obtain, her Orthopedic Specialist Certification.

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