“The body is constantly regenerating, and you have an enormous capacity to change your range of motion, strength and how it performs, depending on the messages you feed it”. (Lisa Howell)
Who is Lisa Howell?
Lisa Howell is a physiotherapist, author, speaker and creator of this blog which has revolutionized how dancers think about their bodies, injuries and performance enhancement.
She is well respected both nationally and internationally for her work with young dancers, professional dancers and dance teachers. She works closely with some of Australia’s top Dance Medicine Specialists and he has lectured throughout Europe, The United Kingdom, The United States and Australasia on Dance Anatomy, Injury Prevention, Recovery and Performance Enhancement. She has also guest spoken at the annual IADMS conference which is an international group of dance professionals aiming to enhance the health, well-being, training, and performance of dancers by cultivating educational, medical, and scientific excellence.
“One of my aims is to change this lack of resources, by providing high quality educational courses to health professionals to increase the quality of the services given to dancers all over the world, as there is no way I can see everyone!”
Lisa started her own practice, Perfect Form Physiotherapy, in 2005 with the mission to create the highest quality physical therapy care for dancers in a nurturing environment. As well as developing the clinic, Lisa has created an extensive series of workshops, online resources and dance education programs to educate and inspire young dancers to become the best that they can possibly be with an emphasis on returning dancers to an elite level of performance.
Lisa’s focus is on education to prevent injury and maximise performance rather than waiting for injury to occur. Details of all of these programs and courses can be found at www.theballetblog.com.
Lisa Howell’s Story
“Dance Physiotherapy is a fantastic career and I have had a lot of people asking about how I specialised in this field and learnt all that I know today.
I initially did an undergraduate physiotherapy degree at Otago University in New Zealand which offers a fantastic 4 year course and then commenced work in a clinic full of experienced dance physiotherapists in Sydney, Australia.
At the time (That was a long time ago now!) there were actually few formal courses on Dance Physiotherapy, and it was very much a matter of finding the right mentor to help coach me through all of the finer details of what you need to be aware of when working with dancers. I was extremely lucky and actually had three amazing mentors! Experience is gold in this profession, and learning directly from experienced therapists accelerated my knowledge in a few short years.
I also work closely with some of Australia’s top Dance Medicine Specialists and have attended many other courses through the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and other external physiotherapy and dance courses. One of my aims is to change this lack of resources, by providing high quality educational courses to health professionals to increase the quality of the services given to dancers all over the world, as there is no way I can see everyone!
An essential aspect in Dance Physiotherapy is to have a passion and love for dance, and a good grounding in as many dance styles as possible! I have worked with many different body types and styles of dance, from classical ballet to hip-hop, break dancing and martial arts. Knowing exactly what is physically demanded of in each of these styles is so important in order to treat both dance students and professionals effectively. The dancers that I work with love it that I know exactly what they mean when they describe their hip popping with a Grand rond de jambe, and understand that they can still feel tight and restricted even when the leg is in a full mount.
An inquisitive mind is also essential, as often you are often playing ‘detective’ when working on particularly chronic or complex injuries. You need to think outside the square and widen back to see all of the contributing factors in any injury, rather than just doing what you have been taught to do. I have come to understand that no one injury is the same as another. As we are all individuals, all of our injuries and bodies are unique and need to be treated as such. Effectively solving the riddle of why one action hurts one dancer and not another is a constant challenge, but so rewarding!
I love the education aspect of my job and love seeing the lights go on when I explain things in a way that others can understand. Making a difference to so many people lives by helping them do what they love is definitely a gift! Dance Medicine is very much an ‘up and coming’ occupation and the recent IADMS (International Association for Dance Medicine and Science) conference demonstrated that there are a lot of health professionals all over the world that are very keen to get into the area of dance.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like any more information in regard to this.
I hope this helps anyone who is thinking of moving into dance medicine, and especially Dance Physiotherapy!