Does participation in ballet dancing increase your risk of scoliosis? A growing body of research seems to suggest that this might well be true.
To non-dancers, the link might seem an odd one – but if you are a dancer you probably know someone with scoliosis, or you might even have it yourself. Now, reseach has confirmed that participating in ballet training can, indeed, raise your chances of developing scoliosis.
The latest research
The study, conducted at the School of Physiotherapy and Exercise Science, Curtin University, Perth, Western Australia, sought to to determine one and for all any differences between the prevalence of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in (female) ballet dancers, compared with non-dancers. The study also aimed to establish if any relations exist between the presence of scoliosis and generalized joint hypermobility, age of menarche (the first occurrence of menstruation), body mass index (BMI), and the number of hours of dance training per week.
As part of the study, 30 dancers between the ages of 9 and 16 years were recruited from a certified dance school in Western Australia – each dancer also provided an age-matched nondancer to participate.
For both groups, measurements were taken for angle of trunk rotation using a scoliometer (a device used to measure the presence of scoliosis) and for height and weight to produce generalized joint hypermobility using Beighton criteria and an age-adjusted BMI, respectively. A subjective questionnaire regarding age of menarche and participation in dance and other sports was also completed.
The results of the study would probably come as no surprise to those in the dancing world – Thirty percent of dancers tested positive for scoliosis compared with only three percent of the nondancers. Calculating representative odds on the basis of these percentages, suggests that dancers are 12.4 times more likely to develop scoliosis than nondancers of the same age.
There was also a higher rate of joint hypermobility in the dancer group (70%) compared with the nondancers (3%); however, there were no statistically significant relations between scoliosis and hypermobility, age of menarche, BMI, or hours of dance per week, therefore we can conclude that the ballet training was the responsible factor in the higher incidence of scoliosis.
From the study, the authors conclude that adolescent dancers, like adult dancers, are at significantly higher risk of developing scoliosis than nondancers of the same age – it follows that vigilant screening and improved education of dance teachers and parents of dance students may be beneficial in earlier detection and, consequently, reducing the risk of requiring surgical intervention.
Why does ballet increase the risk of scoliosis?
While its too early to say that we fully understand the causal links, it seems reasonable to suggest that the way in which ballet students are taught to hold their spines in class – which tends to be the opposite of the spine’s natural curves – could be the cause. With our background in chiropractic care our specialists are experts at assessing and treating stresses on the spine which makes ideally placed to approach this complex issue. Recognising the development of a problem early enough allows us a wide variety of approaches to tackle the problem.
What can I do?
As a parent of a dancer, or as a dancer yourself, there are proactive steps you can take to lower your risk of developing scoliosis, and to take action to prevent the condition from developing if it does occur.
- Monitor your body for changes (or monitor your child’s body for changes) especially between the ages of 10 to 18. Is one shoulder higher than the other? Does one side of your ribcage protrude forward? Does one hip stick out more to the side than the other? These misalignments could indicate scoliosis. You can also use our scoliscreen app to screen for the common symptoms at home.
- If you notice potential symptoms, get a professional evaluation as soon as possible. Scoliosis, if spotted early is now simple to treat – we have a range of approaches designed to prevent, reduce, and eliminate scoliosis.
- Work to build your core strength in addition to your ballet training. Focus on exercises which require a neutral body position and which keep the spine in alignment. For advice on scoliosis preventative exercise, get in touch!
- Be mindful if you have family member who suffer from scoliosis. While scoliosis can occur with no family history whatsoever, a family history of scoliosis might predispose you to the condition.