Understanding the Medication Dancers Use

Dancers' bodies take some beatings from the demands of physical movement. There are bruises, muscle strains, ligament sprains, and just an overall, general soreness that we experience. Sometimes our pain necessitates the use of over-the-counter medication. It is important to know what you are taking, why you are taking it, and how your body processes the medication.

Today, we are talking about dancer medicine!

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Looking for: No Pain & No Inflammation

The medications that take away pain and inflammation include: counterirritants, local anesthetics, narcotic analgesics, and nonnarcotic analgesics and antipyretics. These are fancy words, but when you break it down, you'll start to see that you may use some of these in your dance life.

Counterirritants can include spray coolants, alcohol, cold, menthol, and local anesthetics. This includes Icy Hot, Tiger Balm and Biofreeze, which dancers usually carry with them in their bags. These counterirritants inhibit the pain and soreness you feel in your muscles by rapid evaporation which makes the skin and muscle feel cool. This way, you are perceiving a different sensation that is not pain.

Ice is also considered a counterirritant, and we all know dancers love their ice baths and ice packs. The ice constricts blood vessels, and it numbs your sensory nerve endings. It will completely numb the area you have placed the ice.

Nonnarcotic Analgesics and antipyretics include Acetaminophen, which you may know as Tylenol. This analgesic and antipyretic helps suppress small amounts of pain, and regulates the body's temperature. Note: This will not help with inflammation. But Tylenol is also known to not irritate the gastrointestinal system, so when inflammation is not a problem and you're only looking for slight pain control, you should use Tylenol instead of Aspirin.

meds

Looking for: Reducing Inflammation

Antiinflammatories include: acetylsalicylic acid (Aspirin), NSAIDs, and corticosteroids. Aspirin is the most widely used because it serves as an antiinflammatory (lessens swelling) and antipyretic (monitors body temperature). But Aspirin can irritate the tummy for some, and it is can cause medical problems in children under the age of 18.

NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, will reduce inflammation, regulate body temperature, and relieve pain. NSAIDs include Ibuprofen (Advil). These are used for chronic problems like arthritis and osteoarthritis. It will help with reducing pain, stiffness, swelling and fevers. They act similarly to Aspirin, but they last longer. NSAIDs should not be used like Tylenol, for headaches or low fevers. But for menstrual cramps or soft-tissue injuries, NSAIDs are perfect. Do not take NSAIDs if you have heart problems.

Corticosteroids include cortisone. This is used for chronic inflammation which dancers can get in their joints. Cortisone can be taken orally, or injected.

Words to Know:
Analgesic: Relieves pain
Antipyretic: Reduces fever, regulates body temperature
Antiiinflammatory: Reduces inflammation

Looking for: Help Breathing

Asthma is a very common inflammatory disease of the lungs, making it difficult for dancers to breathe. An inhaler is portable and delivers medication directly to the lungs. Nebulizers, a pump that turns medication into a breathable mist, is also used to aid breathing.

Looking for: A Pick Me Up

Caffeine is usually the dance go-to if we're feeling sluggish. A quick coffee, tea or espresso will do the trick and have us at the barre in no time. But what is caffeine? It is a central nervous system stimulant and diuretic. The good parts of caffeine: It can stimulate the cerebral cortex, making you feel very alert in ballet class. The bad parts: If you drink a lot, it can raise your blood pressure, it can create quick changes in the heart rate, which can affect coordination, sleep, and moods. Only one cup of coffee includes 100 - 150 milligrams of caffeine. (Diet Coke has 45.6 mg, and No-Doz has 100 mg). If you use caffeine too often, you can experience withdrawal. Also remember, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it promotes the production of urine. When you're dancing, you need your fluids to stay hydrated. Caffeine can potentially lead to dehydration when dancing.

Dance Medication Quiz

1. You are experiencing soreness, but there is no swelling. What do you take?
2. You have menstrual cramps, but you have ballet class. What do you take?
3. You have a silly headache, but you have tap class. What do you take?
4. You have a soft-tissue injury, which is causing swelling. What do you take?
5. You have having trouble breathing during dance. What do you do?

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Answers:
1) Try using counterirritant cream on the sore area. 2) NSAID - Ibuprofen. 3) Nonnarcotic Analgesics - like Tylenol. 4) NSAID - Ibuprofen. 5) See a doctor. You may have asthma and need an inhaler. NOTE: The Ballet Shoes & Bobby Pins team is in no way a medical team, and you should consult a doctor if you have any questions or have any kind of reactions to over-the-counter medication.

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