The World of Pain While Pole Dancing : Here’s how to stay ahead — and what to do when you push your body too far.

My Plan

Exactly a week ago, I had some time to kill. 

My pole class the night before had been unexpectedly cancelled, so I figured I might as well get on the pole to end a grueling workweek on a more creative note.

I had a plan in mind.

I’d set the pole to spin and work on a splitty aerial invert, then I’d transition into an allegra — a trick I love, but tend to neglect in my practice.

Like many skills in pole, I often lose these things if I don’t use them, so I figured this plan would be pretty productive.

…My Nagging Inner-voice

But a nagging voice inside of me had a different suggestion: work on handsprings first — one of my inconsistent nemesis moves.

I knew that wasn’t the best approach, because I constantly struggle with all types of handsprings. They’re incredibly hard on my wrists, and when I have a practice where I can’t land one, it puts a sad tinge on the rest of my day.

Commence the negative self-talk (fair warning that you might want to skip reading the below lines if you’re sensitive to this kind of thing, too). 

  • You’ve been doing pole for years now. You should be getting this trick every fucking time.
  • Your tall frame just isn’t meant for acrobatic stuff. Maybe if you were shorter, it wouldn’t take you years to master things that take other people a couple months.
  • Your chronically ill body just isn’t meant for this hobby.

…My Pain

I gave into the pressure of the nagging voice. And after two handspring attempts , I was successful finally. I wheeled down to the floor to check my phone, stood back up, and felt an immediate agony in my lower spine.

This pain was unfamiliar to me, but I had seen the same thing in my mom — and immediately knew what was up. I had thrown out my back with one true-grip handspring at the very beginning of my practice. 

The damage was done.

No pole for me for a week. 

Hard Pill To Swallow: Injury Pervades Pole

Injuries in pole aren’t anything new for me or a lot of other polers I know. And as it turns out, they’re actually endemic to the careers and hobbies that revolve around a pole. 

According to a research roundup by The Pole PT, the total injury incidents among a cohort of 66 pole dancers in Australia was 103 injuries in one year. Similarly, another study out of California State University, Northridge found that nearly 7 in 10 dancers surveyed faced an injury in the year prior. The research goes on and on, confirming similar findings and types of injury across the board. 

If you’re a chronically injured poler like me, this is probably less than shocking — but the conversation surrounding pole-related injuries is somewhat insular. Pole-loving fitness experts, physical therapists, and sports medicine practitioners will sing the praises of injury prehab and rehab programs ad nauseam (and honestly, that’s warranted).

“…But to be honest, this conversation (injury prehab/rehab) is fairly quiet on the movement and dancing side of pole.”

How To Plan Prehabilitation Of Your Body & Rehabilitating Your Injuries

It’s glaringly clear we may have an issue here, right? But short of going to every practice and praying that we don’t get injured — or in many cases, further injured — there are some tenets you can keep in mind to ensure a (hopefully) happier and healthier pole journey.

1.Understand how to scale up your training.

Your body needs time to scale up your training to gain the strength and flexibility needed to execute pole moves, from beginner tricks all the way up to the more elusive ones.

I’ve seen not one, but multiple pole influencers suggesting to total beginners that the key to getting really good at pole in a short amount of time involves training every single day. And honestly, this is shocking to me.

I get it — as a newbie, you’re mesmerized by strong, seasoned polers who dance and float seemingly effortlessly. You don’t want to think about the ugliness and pain of the journey. Instead, it’s more like this: “How long will it take me to dance like the experts?”

But although consistency in training is certainly key to improving, training daily — and especially for those with no prior dance, gymnastics, or even sports experience — is a one-way ticket to injury.

Your body needs time to scale up your training to gain the strength and flexibility needed to execute pole moves, from beginner tricks all the way up to the more elusive ones.

Suggestions: For complete beginners— start by practicing 2x a week for a couple of weeks (this includes paid pole classes). If you’re still feeling great, feel free to scale things up. But if you’re feeling overly sore or like your connective tissues just can’t catch up, put on the brakes.

Non-newbies— If you’re working on, say, ayesha or deadlift, don’t train it a ton every single session. Let your body get used to these new sensations without asking too much at once from your muscles, joints, and bones.

Lastly, never feel guilty about taking a rest day. After all, that’s how your body recovers and gains strength.

2. Continuously Return To Basics (Let that ego go) .

Because the basics happen so often during intermediate and advanced training, it will help to reduce your chances of injury.

Do you find yourself struggling to do the prep for a trick you’re focusing on? This might look like:

  • Kicking or swinging into an invert before a leg hang or crucifix.
  • Not being able to hold a shoulder mount at the end position for a second or two before hooking into brass monkey.
  • Depending on your calf or ankle to “hook” your knee pit onto the pole after a reiko mount.

This is a surefire sign that you might need to rewind a bit and focus on the transition beforehand (hello inverts, pole sits, shoulder mounts, jasmines, and butterfly!).

Too often, we get way ahead of ourselves with tricks — and it’s incredibly tempting to forgo perfecting the basics

Although you don’t need to necessarily give up training the tricks that come after a tough-for-you transition, try and devote at least one pole practice weekly (or one 15-30 minute part of each pole practice) for repeating and mastering your basics.

Strong basics and transitions not only look beautiful and feel powerful, but also ensure you can conserve energy during your pole practice

3. Know how to adjust your practice when you’re injured (or just not feeling it).

So, what if you’re already dealing with a chronic injury or have to let a fresh one heal over the next couple of weeks?

It’s simple (to say, maybe not so simple to do) — avoid any movements that cause pain in that area to avoid further injury.

Once you’re feeling better, try easing back into things to see how your body responds.

We’re lucky. Pole is super inventive because there’s usually something new to try out. Pole is also expansive—we can go back and work on things we haven’t touched in a while. For these reasons, it’s usually possible to find different movement patterns or skills that won’t aggravate your injury. Try to incorporate additional rest, thermal therapeutic methods and stillness too.

For untreated injuries that nag you relentlessly for extended periods of time I suggest consulting with an orthopedist or physical therapist to avoid lasting damage (if you have the means). Check with your insurance provider for options that fall under your coverage so that out of pocket costs are low. Bonus points if you can find one that works with dancers, gymnasts, circus artists, or better yet — other pole dancers.

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