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Pre-season dance class helps skiers' back pain
By:  Sheila Kealey   (2004/03/01)


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Cross-country skiers may find back-pain relief at the ballet barre, a small study suggests.

Swedish researchers found that three months of dance classes before the skiing season improved flexibility and range of motion in a group of elite cross-country skiers. What's more, four of the six who'd suffered from back pain saw the problem go away.

Dr. Suzanne Werner and M. Alricsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm report the findings in the April issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

According to the researchers, the nature of cross-country skiing-with its repetitive motion of the limbs and constant flexed position of the spine-makes muscle tightness and problems such as back pain common in the sport.

To see whether trading in skis for dance shoes might help boost flexibility and joint range of motion, Werner and Alricsson had 16 elite-level skiers take dance classes six hours a week for 12 weeks. A comparison group of 10 skiers did not take the classes.

By the study's end, the dancing skiers had improved the flexibility in their spines and range of motion in their hips, as well as their posture. And although all the dancing did not make them better skiers, the researchers report, four of the six who'd had back pain no longer did after the dance training.

In contrast, the three athletes in the comparison group who had back pain had no such improvement.

According to Werner and Alricsson, the gains in spinal flexibility and hip range of motion may explain the back pain relief. They recommend pre-season dance training for skiers with limited spinal flexibility-and as a break from the "monotonous" ski training the athletes must undergo.

Take home message

Additional preseason dance training:

  • had a positive effect on joint mobility and muscle flexibility, including the relation between kyphosis of the thoracic spine and lordosis of the lumbar spine, in elite cross-country skiers with a slightly impaired range of motion of the spine.
  • had a positive effect on mobility in hip flexion with the knee extended in elite cross-country skiers.
  • showed a tendency to reduce ski related back pain in elite cross-country skiers with back problems.

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine, April 2004. [Full Article]

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