Do you find that some of your Line dancers report aches in their knees after Line dancing? If you do then it might not surprise you to learn that this is quite common. I was writing about achy knees in Line dancing well over 10 years ago. The issues today are similar to back then but I thought it is worth flagging up some simple ways that you can use to help Line dancers reduce or prevent ‘Line dancer knees’.
Why do some Line dancers get achy knees?
Line dancers use muscles or muscle groups in a repetitive way – as we know, Line dancing is about repetition. Muscles used will usually get stronger so Line dancing can help us to improve or maintain tone in the muscles regularly used. But what about the other muscles? Unless we are also doing physical activity that targets the other muscles or muscle groups they are likely to lose some tone. When this happens these muscles cannot do their job as well as they should and muscle imbalances occur. The achy knees that Line dancers complain about might occur because the muscles around the knee are not as strong as they should be and not able to offer sufficient support to the joint. When the muscles that are supposed to do the job cannot cope then other muscles have to struggle to do their work instead. When this happens it is not surprising that these muscles let us know about it later. Of course, as always, it is always worth telling your dancers to get any joint issues checked by a health professional to rule out any musculoskeletal or medical problems.
If Line dancers attend class or dance for long periods several times a week they might be overusing some muscles and underusing others. In an ideal world we would all follow a balanced exercise plan that would help us to keep all of our muscle groups in good, balanced, working order.
What can you do to prevent ‘Line dance knees’?
Building in some simple, regular exercises that will help to strengthen the supporting muscles around the knee joints should help. Two basic, functional exercises that do not need specialist exercise equipment are below. Done regularly they can really make a difference. For seated exercises always use a chair that is stable and supportive.
1 Stand Up, Sit Down
Sit in the chair, towards the front of it (ready to stand up). Place your feet on the floor slightly behind your knees and lean slightly forwards to stand up. Initially you might need to use your hands for support but over time you should be able to stand up without using your hands for support.
Step back a little (if you need to) so that you can just feel the chair touching the back of your legs, begin bending your knees and SLOWLY lower yourself back down on the chair.
Do 10 repetitions – or work up to 10 reps.
Remember to stand tall, bend knees over the centre of the feet and descend into the chair slowly to work the muscles.
2 Thigh worker
Keeping the quads or front thigh muscles working can be done sitting down. Sit tall with both feet flat on the floor. Straighten one leg bringing your foot off the floor to straighten the knee. Hold leg in the straight position for a count of 5 (or work up to a count of 5). Bend the knee and replace foot on the floor.
Do 5 or 6 reps before changing legs and repeating on the other side.
Remember to sit tall. You might want to count out loud so that you remember to breathe during the hold.
There are variations on these exercises that you may prefer to use or try – doing the thigh worker with a flexi band is one such option.
Standing and sitting tall is important when doing these exercises because it encourages the posture muscles throughout the body to fire up.
Straightening knees – remind your dancers that the aim is to straighten the knees but not to lock them out or push them backwards.
Once you have taught these two exercises to your dancers remember to ask them from time to time if they are still doing them regularly and also ask whether they feel a difference in their knees. It is really useful to recap, once in a while, the key safety points that they need to pay attention to when doing these exercises. The best benefits come from the exercises being done carefully and accurately.
Older Line dancers
If you teach older adults you should also bear in mind that we all naturally lose some muscle tone as we get older. Paying attention to regularly working the main muscle groups that help to keep us mobile and independent is something we should all do as we get older. The two exercises above are also useful generally as we get older as well as for Line dancing.
When planning classes or events bear in mind the content of specific Line dances and the impact of them on your dancers’ knees. Dancing one or two walls might be fine on the knees but dancing to a whole track of music can increase the impact quite considerably. Look for dances that offer variety in the muscles being used so that dancers’ knees are not under fire the whole time. Perhaps considering identifying categories of dances such as:- walking dances, shuffle and turn dances, relaxing dances and so on. Doing a walking style dance after an up tempo shuffle and turn dance should give the knees a bit of a rest. Or slotting in a few relaxing dances (dances that do not require a lot of thinking, are not energetic and do not have any heavy duty footwork – the sort of dances that dancers float off into their own world and simply enjoy dancing) between the high energy dances. So why not give some ‘knee’ consideration to the sequencing of the dances when you are planning your next class or event?