Dancers’ experience of osteopathy and their attitudes towards dance injuries

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Maddren, Kaley
Author ORCID Profiles (clickable)
Master of Osteopathy
Unitec Institute of Technology
Hach, Sylvia
Moran, Robert
Masters Thesis
Ngā Upoko Tukutuku (Māori subject headings)
osteopathic medicine
dance injuries
New Zealand
Maddren, K. (2019). Dancers’ experience of osteopathy and their attitudes towards dance injuries. (Unpublished document submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Osteopathy). Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand. Retrieved from
BACKGROUND: Professional dancers almost invariably experience injury at some point in their dance careers. There is weak evidence to show that many dancers do not seek professional consultation to manage their injuries. Moreover, many dancers attempt to continue to practice and perform and this can negatively impact on their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. When treatment is sought, manual therapists (such as osteopaths, physiotherapists) are most commonly consulted. Despite this, there is minimal research examining dancers’ experiences of manual therapy, and more specifically, their experiences of consulting osteopaths. AIM: To explore New Zealand dancers’ experiences of osteopathic care for dance-related injuries and their attitudes towards seeking help for dance injuries. METHOD: A descriptive phenomenological study of four New Zealand professional dancers. Dancers were interviewed using semi-structured and open-ended interview techniques. Transcripts were analysed using Braun and Clarkes’ approach to thematic analysis. RESULTS: Three essential themes were revealed which helped provide insight into dancers’ attitudes towards injuries and their experiences of osteopathy. The first theme ‘pushing through pain’ considered some of the reasons for dancers to continue to dance despite injury. The second theme, ‘deciding if and who’ explained some of the factors that dancers contemplated when deciding whether their pain or injury warranted treatment. The third essential theme, ‘experience of different treatment modalities’ provided an insight of what dancers found most helpful during consultations and treatments. CONCLUSION: Participants’ attitudes towards injuries were compelling with their decision-making being influenced by pressures within dance culture coupled with self-expectations. Dancers were often competitively driven and their hesitancy to seek treatment may be similar to those identified in other high-level athletes involved in other sports. The fear of disappointing their peers and colleagues appeared to be more dominant in the accounts of dancers than what has been reported for other athletes. Dancers found osteopathy to be beneficial, which was largely attributed to positive communication and the whole-body treatment approach used by osteopaths. It is important for osteopaths to be aware of the challenges dancers face surrounding their pain and injuries in order to produce the best possible outcome.
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