How Can Osteopathy and Massages Help Pole Dancers?

Osteopathy and sports massages have become a staple of my pole dance training. Yet, before I became a pole dance instructor, I had never had a sport massage or an osteopathy session, despite the fact that I trained for at least ten hours a week regularly. So when I got badly injured after blending too much pole dance competition preparation with instructor training, I went for my first massage only to hear my therapist literally go: “WTF girl! You are SO active, you need to look after your body.” Since a lot of polers I’ve spoken with have not tried sports massages or osteopathy either, I thought I’d interview the pros to show you how those treatments can help us look after our achy pole bodies.

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Picture by Kuu London

My Experience With Osteopathy and Sports Massages

When I was training to become a pole instructor, putting in hours and hours a week of choreography and tricks preparation, I was also gearing up to compete at the second Exotic Generation UK. Shortly after the competition, I started feeling a piercing pain in my shoulder and right arm, so much that I was not able to turn my neck to one side, or to rely on the strength of that side of my upper body. I tried going to a physiotherapist, but I got little more than some strengthening exercises.

Walking in Clapton, my local area, I spotted Kuu, an osteopathy and healing clinic brightening up the street with tea lights and a warm, welcoming vibe. I decided to book a massage with them and healed very quickly.

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Picture by: Kuu London

After that initial overtraining scare, I started going back to sports massages every month because, as a pole instructor, I could not justify being in pain or causing any niggling ache or injury to worsen. I met my now regular therapist, Aylin Wilson, on my second session, when I randomly found out that she also treats my pole wife, one of my best friends.

The only word I can use to describe Aylin’s approach and treatment is ‘magic’. She makes the pain disappear by touching you lightly. After the first lockdown, she basically saved me. Having taught via Zoom for hours and hours, and having filled my days with training to escape the lockdown sadness, my neck, upper back and shoulders became a daily source of pain by June. Plus, I couldn’t do the splits anymore, because I’d injured my legs during home training. As soon as Kuu reopened, I went in for an osteopathy session that allowed me to train and teach again and that fixed my legs, so much so that I can now do the splits even better than before.

My osteopath Aylin is the pro I’ll be speaking with for this interview. Aylin, 24, graduated from the University College of Osteopathy (UCO) in Borough. She decided to become an osteopath when her own osteopath left anatomy books for her when she passed away. Aylin believes that her role is to hold space and assist people in their own healing processes, which is most often a mix of body, mind and the factors that influence everyday life. Sports massage fits into this philosophy too, and as an avid rock climber and martial artist she’s experienced the benefits of both in practicing the two.

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My osteopath Aylin Wilson

Aylin has her own patients, but she joined Kuu because of the instant environment of peace and calm you feel when walking through the door. She says: “The plants and décor create this cheery and bright atmosphere which, unlike a clinical setting, is welcoming and allows you to unwind from the beginning.” Aylin found the Kuu team very supportive and the founder, Elisa Burato, very inspiring: “Elisa’s ambition and leadership tempered with kindness and generosity is something I very much look up to,” she says.

Pole dance injuries and how we can fix them

Aylin says: “I have immense respect for the amount of discipline and time that people put into training for pole.” Yet, sometimes, that discipline can result in not taking enough time to heal.

The main pole dance injuries Aylin has seen come from loss of balance at the wrong time, or not taking time for self-care. Knees, hips, and shoulders are often polers’ main areas of complaint, since they are the junction points we use the most, causing intense muscle strains.

Aylin shared some tips with me to help polers prevent injuries:

  1. Train both sides equally, even if you have a preferred side. This will improve your functional mobility and help with both balance and coordination in the long run.

    *This is why I annoy all my students by screaming: TRY IT ON THE OTHER SIDE!!!!*
  2. Incorporate regular active stretches into your warm-ups and downs so your body is prepared for a training session, which reduces the risk of injury in the first place.
  3. Cool down in your own time so muscles don’t hold on to waste products and make you feel as sore the next day.

Apart from these, it’s important that you spend some time treating your body after strenuous exercise – and this is where osteopathy and sports massages come in.

What is osteopathy and how can it help pole dancers?

Osteopathy is a holistic treatment focusing on the person as a whole, using techniques including massage, manipulation and stretching. Osteopaths encourage independence and agency, believing that the body has its own ability to heal if the right factors are in place. Because of this, osteopathy is excellent for treating injuries and reducing chronic pain, or general aches and pains accumulated from everyday life.

Osteopathy differs from physiotherapy in the sense that a physio may approach the injury head on, targeting the site of the pain with exercises to make the region strong enough to overcome it. An osteopath tries to identify the root cause instead, using more manual therapy to ensure that the issue does not return after stopping exercise. For Aylin, both are different but equally valid approaches to the same issue. She says: “In an osteopathy session, the whole body is taken into account. The focus is on the tissue connections and what may not be moving as efficiently as it should, or if a region is over-mobile to try and help stabilize it.”

Depending on the injury, Aylin recommends that polers and athletes should book a course of between 1-3 or 3-5 sessions when in pain. Then, she suggests to book a session once every few months for a maintenance session to pre-empt any areas becoming restricted from overuse.

What is a sports massage and how can it help pole dancers?

A sports massage is a type of massage that reduces muscle tension and ache from regular exercise. It can particularly help after harder workout sessions, since it improves circulation and moves any built up waste products in the body which occur as a by-product of overexertion. Sports massages tend to be a bit firmer with pressure and a bit more targeted compared to remedial massages, and they do not often cover the whole body unless requested. Aylin says:

“I would suggest pole dancers had one once or twice a month, depending on the intensity or training and their own recovery and self-care routines. This is not only to pre-empt risk of injury, but also to improve and support your training goals.”

She adds: “Although it is called ‘sports massage’, it is still a great option for anyone trapped at a desk with general aches and pains!”

About Kuu

Before I leave you and because I my experience with Aylin and Kuu has been really positive, I thought I’d share my local clinic’s story.

Kuu was born as a project amongst three osteopath friends who lived in Clapton. They wanted to create a healing space within the community they loved, a space reflecting their deepest beliefs regarding health, therapeutic touch and movement.

Kuu blends the founders’ interests, including the care of expecting mothers and women in general, exercise and sport science. The most important aspect for Kuu is to maintain a strong link with spirituality during their treatments, and to create a space where people could experience the interrelation between their health and their inner self and to empower them towards discovery and self-management.

‘Kuu’ is a Japanese word which is not easily translated using a single word. Kuu’s Italian founder, Elisa, says: “It’s is more a concept: it’s the void, the space, the emptiness, the ether that is found between the matter and, whilst it separates and creates space, it also connects all that exists.” ‘Kuu’ is also the name of the goddess of the moon in Finnish, an image that seemed to fit the clininc’s ethos considering it works with the feminine, and the intuitive side of healing and healthcare.

Kuu’s team is made of many Italian osteopaths. Elisa says: “It was initially coincidental and consecutively a discerned choice, as the treatment style is slightly different from the classic UK training. We wanted to have a 380 degrees of styles for people to find their ‘perfect match.'” 

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Picture by Kuu London

Kuu have now added another location to their mothership in Clapton, a new space that, for them, feels like an experiment. It’s right in the middle of the City of London, a few minutes from Liverpool Street, Bank and Moorgate and it’s in a big office space, completely different from their smaller, homely Clapton location. The City felt like the right space for Kuu right now, says Elisa:

The City at the moment is super quiet and somehow so much more gentle than usual. We loved the idea to have access to such huge buildings, space and a surreal quiet! Plus once again we really would like to bring a bit of our hippy/spiritual/feminine touch into such masculine environment and to remember that mums, babies, athletes can co-exists happily even in a working environment such as office buildings.

Referral

As an Italian Londoner, I immediately warmed up to the clinic’s Italian team and to their personable approach. Luckily, because their work counts as essential, they’re open even during Lockdown 2.

If you’re a Londoner and want to try osteopathy or sports massages in the City, feel free to mention me – Carolina, from Blogger On Pole – in your booking form or during your phone booking to get 15% off your next treatment!

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