Getty Images

Period Problems: 4 Pointers for Dancers to Get Through That Time of the Month

Monthly periods can be a huge hassle for anyone. But donning a leotard and tights or getting through a tough barre when you're having your period can make it even harder to deal with. Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University, offers these tips for bunheads to ease pain and symptoms.


Make It More Manageable

Getty Images

A family of chemicals produced in our bodies called prostaglandins are partially responsible for the pain and cramping that often accompany your period. According to Streicher, taking an over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen, specifically reduces the production of prostaglandins in the body, making it a practical choice for period pain.

For more effective relief, Streicher recommends starting the NSAID a couple days before your period starts, which can even help decrease the amount of bleeding.

Heat

Getty Images

"Don't underestimate the power of a heating pad placed on the lower belly while cramping," Streicher says.

She also recommends disposable, stick-on heating pads (available at most drugstores) that can be worn under your leotard or costume.

Protection

Getty Images

On heavy days, Streicher suggests doubling up: Wear a tampon and a thong panty liner in your leotard for additional, unbulky protection.

Then, layer your tights over your leotard, or, if your studio allows it, wear dark-colored, fitted shorts. Either option may make you feel more comfortable and will help the liner stay in place.

When to See a Doctor

Getty Images

If your period is getting in the way of your dancing or causing pain that cannot be relieved with over-the-counter medication, don't hesitate to visit your doctor or gynecologist to see if something more serious is going on. They may prescribe you birth control specifically for period management. Streicher stresses that it's safe for preteens and teens, and can be effective at reducing cramps, bloating and heavy bleeding.

Latest Posts


xmb photography, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

The Washington Ballet's Sarah Steele on Her At-Home Workouts

Ballet at home: Since she's not preparing for any immediate performances, Steele takes ballet barre three to four times a week. "I'm working in more of a maintenance mode," she says, prioritizing her ankles and the intrinsic muscles in her feet. "If you don't work those muscles, they disappear really quickly. I've been focusing on a baseline level of ballet muscle memory."

What she's always working on: Strengthening her glute-hamstring connection (the "under-butt" area), which provides stability for actions like repetitive relevés and power for jumps. Bridges are her go-to move for conditioning those muscles. "Those 'basic food group'–type exercises are some of the best ones," she says.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Hiding Injuries: Why Downplaying Pain Can Lead to Bigger Problems Down the Road

Sabrina Landa was thrilled to be offered a traineeship with Pennsylvania Ballet. "As a trainee, everything felt like a chance to prove myself as a professional," she says. Her training hours increased and she was dancing more than she ever had before. When Landa began experiencing pain in her metatarsals partway through the 2018 Nutcracker season, she notified the staff. "But in fear of losing my shows, I downplayed the severity of it," Landa says.

She notes that no one pushed her to keep dancing but herself. "I was 18 and was aiming to receive a contract by the end of the year," she says. "I felt so much anxiety over missing an opportunity that I was afraid to be honest about my pain." Pennsylvania Ballet's artistic staff were understanding and supportive, but Landa minimized her injury for the next few months, wanting to push through until the season ended and contracts were offered. But after months of pain and an onset of extreme weakness in her foot, Landa was diagnosed with two stress fractures in her second and third metatarsals. She spent the next three months on crutches and six months off dancing to allow for the fractures' delayed healing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Skjalg Bøhmer Vold, Courtesy Merritt Moore

How Quantum Physicist Ballerina Merritt Moore Learned to Dance With a Robot (Plus, Her Newest Film)

When the world went into lockdown last March, most dancers despaired. But not Merritt Moore. The Los Angeles native, who lives in London and has danced with Norwegian National Ballet, English National Ballet and Boston Ballet, holds a PhD in atomic and laser physics from the University of Oxford. A few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, she came up with a solution for having to train and work alone: robots.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks