4 Spine Conditions That Impact Dancers

Category: Spine | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: February 4, 2016

dancers with back pain

Whether you’re a professional on Broadway or cheering on the local high school team on the Poms Squad, dancers have to be very flexible throughout their entire routine. While all that twisting, turning and bending is impressive, it also takes a heavy toll on your spine. Today, we’re going to take a look at some of the common spinal conditions that affect dancers.

A recent study out of Sweden found that lumbar back pain affected upwards of 85 percent of dancers, and that’s no surprise when you consider how often they put stress on their spine. In fact, while acute spine injuries are occasionally seen in dancers, overuse injuries from repetitive microtrauma are by far the most common types of injury. Here’s a look at some injuries caused by that trauma, and other conditions that can set in:


Medical data shows that spondylolysis occurs at a much greater frequency in dancers than in the general population. Spine specialists believe it sets because of the constant microtrauma of repetitive extension and rotation of the spine. This leads to degeneration of the intervertebral discs and narrowing of the spinal canal. Learn more about treatment of spondylolsis on this page.

Bulging/Herniated Discs

Disc issues are common in older adults who have worked physical labor for decades, but it always has a higher incidence rate in dancers. Dance involves a lot of axial compression and flexion, which all slowly wears down your spinal discs. Conservative treatment is generally best for treating a bulging disc in dancers. This usually involves staying off your feet, resting and over-the-counter NSAIDs. Disc herniation may involve some more hands-on treatment.

Spinal Arthritis

Back pain in dancers can also be the result of arthritic degeneration. Again, this spinal inflammation is usually the result of repetitive microtrauma. Arthritis is more common in dancers who have been dancing on stage for years, as their spinal cartilage has taken years of abuse. Spinal osteophytes (bone spurs) can also develop over time, which can lead to inflammation and arthritis. Rest, anti-inflammatories and anti-lordotic exercises can help combat painful spinal arthritis.

Spinal Fractures

Repetitive flexion or acute trauma can lead to spinal fractures in dancers. The treatment of spinal stress fractures involves alleviating the pain and modifying some dancing techniques to prevent recurrence. Other modifications include torso and back taping during activity, abdominal strengthening, pelvic-tilt exercises and rest.

If you dance or your child is a gymnast complaining of back pain, consider setting up a consultation with a spine specialist. With so much repetitive stress on the spine, injury and soreness is almost unavoidable. Your doctor can explain the mechanics of your spine and talk you through different exercises to strengthen and prevent injuries in your spine.

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