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How many ladies have issues with neck pain in dancing? Do you find yourself
praying to get through the round when you’re just in the middle of the Viennese Waltz?
Do you love dancing the Ballroom, but hate the fact that you have to see the
chiropractor after every competition, or worse, after each lesson!? And to top it off, do
you never seem to be able to get your head in the position your teacher wants it or if
you do manage to, you just can’t maintain it? Do you ever wonder why this is happening
to you, why is this so hard, and what can you do to fix it?
After I retired from competitive dancing, I was determined to find out the reason
why so many ladies suffer through this pain, what is causing it and what can we do to fix
it. I wanted to find a different approach because, as a dancer, I wasn’t really finding the
root cause to the problem, mainly because I didn’t understand the body from a
kinesthetic point of view. I wasn’t satisfied with the answers that were given to me so I
decided to look outside of the dance business and that is what brought me to the CHEK
Institute. The CHEK Institute (Corrective Holistic Exercise Kinesiology) was founded by
Paul Chek, a world famous trainer of athletes as well as a naturopathic doctor and
respected teacher. The CHEK Institute has a two-fold approach to training athletes...
1)Assessment of Posture and Postural Correction and 2) Functional Exercise Programs
geared toward the sport.
As we all know, posture is extremely important in dancing, not only for aesthetics,
but also for our health. If we do not have optimal posture, our body compensates in
various ways which often manifests itself as pain. Also, if you do not have optimal
posture, some movements are just plain difficult and unnatural to do.....for
example...lowering action in Waltz, hip action in rumba, CBM, connections, shaping,
fluidity...I could go on and on. But that brings us to the question...What is optimal
There are several components that I look for when I am assessing posture:
curvature of both the thoracic and lumbar spine, pelvic tilt, core strength and control,
muscle imbalances, forward head posture and first rib angle. What I would like to
address in this particular article is First Rib Angle.
First Rib Angle refers to the angle of the first rib (located basically underneath
your collar bone) and the point at which the cervical spine (neck) meets the thoracic
spine (upper back). If you were to place your finger on your sternal notch (the little hole
in the base of your throat where your collar bones meet) and the space between C7 and
T1 of your upper back, an angle can be measured. That angle is the First Rib Angle.
The optimal angle for the average person is 25 degrees, but unfortunately, a majority of
the population have much steeper angles. I have measured angles as much as 40-45
degrees. So what that basically means is that the entire shoulder complex is tipped
forward and does not sit properly on the rest of the spine. (I think we can thank the
computer age for that!). When the lady is in dance position, I like to see her have the
ability to change the angle to around 10-15 degrees which means that the upper back
needs to be able to extend. But oftentimes, when the rib angle is too steep, it causes
the lady to have a “fixed” upper back and doesn’t really allow her to change the angle in
an effortless way. So how does that affect the lady in dance position? Picture this...you
go to your lesson and your teacher asks you to put your head back (either that or he
shoves the ladies head back which, incidentally, annoys me to no end!). What do you
do? You probably stretch the muscles in your neck in a vain attempt to put your head
where you think it should go, often times straining the muscles in the neck and
producing a very contrived look. Or, you lean back from your lumbar spine (lower back)
making you look and feel very heavy to your partner and causing lower back pain in the
process. Or, maybe you tighten the latissimus dorsi in an effort to pull your shoulders
back but in the process you become as stiff as a board and it still doesn’t really correct
the first rib angle. It’s not about “using muscles” to keep you in the right position...if you
are in the proper posture, then your muscles will support you in a relaxed manner
without excessive activation. The problem is that you don’t have the bones in the right
place to support the position or the weight of the head. The ladies dance position should
be easy and natural to attain and to hold, without the intentional activation of muscle
groups to keep it there. The true support comes from the positioning of the bones and
the first rib angle on the spinal column. Sometimes, the solution is easy and it’s just an
awareness issue of knowing where the bones should sit, but other times there is an
imbalance in the musculature of the chest and back that lock the rib angle down and
don’t allow you to naturally lift the rib angle. If that is the case, then you will need a
corrective program to solve the problem consisting of stretches, strengthening exercises
and spinal mobilizations. But rest assured...correcting a rib angle problem is possible!
Pain in the neck can be a thing of the past!