Health & Body

Ask Amy: My Physical Therapist and Massage Therapist Aren't Agreeing

Rodrigo Bernasc via Pixabay

I'm a dancer who is currently injured and unable to walk a lot. My physical therapist and my massage therapist are giving me opposite instructions. My PT believes that I should do her exercises, even if they cause some of the "bad pain," and take three different kinds of exercise classes. My massage therapist tells me that I shouldn't do anything that causes "bad pain" and only do one exercise class per week for now. Who should I listen to? —Rachel


You're in a sticky situation, but I think it's best to defer to your physical therapist for now. Physical therapists have advanced medical degrees and are more knowledgeable with regards to the biomechanics of your specific injury. They're also trained to develop a prescribed medical program for your rehabilitation, including stretches, strengthening exercises and mobilizations. Massage therapists specialize in soft tissue work and can aid in the healing process, but they may not have the medical background to understand the full scope of your injury.

"A physical therapist always trumps a massage therapist," says Brent Whitney, a dancer/choreographer and licensed massage therapist in private practice at Strive Total Wellness in New York City. In an ideal situation, he says, your PT and MT would have a discussion about your treatment plan so that they're both on the same page. (For example, when I was receiving PT for a stubborn back spasm, my therapist referred me to the clinic's acupuncturist and massage therapist, which helped speed my recovery.)

When that's not possible, says Whitney, "you must be your own advocate." Don't be afraid to question your PT—find out why your she wants you to follow this specific regime (and why she wants you to work through "bad pain"). Communicate any concerns, especially if you're not progressing or are in a lot of discomfort. You can always seek out a second opinion, or try your MT's advice, if you're not getting results.

Ballet Training
Kali Kleiman performing at YAGP's New York Finals. VAM Productions, Courtesy YAGP.

As someone who has judged many ballet competitions, I've had the opportunity to see some breathtaking contemporary solos that combine fantastic technique with well-conceived choreography. Yet it's often hard for us judges to see the artistic intention behind these solos the way we can when watching a classical variation. For one thing, we're simply more familiar with classical ballet's repertoire and characters. But also, when a contemporary solo is just a string of one trick after another, or only delivers one emotion (such as overwrought angst), we don't get to see any artistic depth.

Keep reading... Show less
Francisco Estevez, Courtesy Colorado Ballet Academy

When you're looking for a ballet program to take you to the next level, there are a lot of factors to consider. While it's tempting to look for the biggest name that will accept you, the savvy dancer knows that successful training has more to do with the attention and opportunities you'll get.

We put together a few of the most important things for dancers to look for in a summer or year-round training program, with the help of the experts at Colorado Ballet Academy:

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Elle Macy in Benjamin Millepied's Appassionata. Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

Cross-training misconceptions: Before Elle Macy became an apprentice with Pacific Northwest Ballet, she was apprehensive about cross-training. "I was warned that it might bulk you, or not to do certain activities because they could potentially injure you." But a stress fracture in her foot changed her perspective. Unable to bear much weight, Macy reluctantly tried stationary biking at her physical therapist's suggestion. "What I learned is that you're not going to get injured from being on an elliptical for 20 minutes or by taking a Pilates class," says Macy. Today, it's not uncommon to find the soloist training on the elliptical, doing ankle stability exercises, using the Pilates reformer or taking a hot yoga class.

Keep reading... Show less
Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

Keep reading... Show less