Recovery in Dancers using the PARASETTER®

The strength, versatility, and grace of professional dancers create an art, which looks effortless to the audience, but has increased physical and mental demands on the body of the dancer. As part of a multidisciplinary approach to rehabilitation, the Parasetter® has been used to target recovery from these physical and mental stresses.

High levels of stress can cause an imbalance within the autonomic nervous system of the dancer. The autonomic nervous system is composed of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system gives us our “fight-or-flight” response, which speeds up our heart rate, increases blood pressure, and constricts our blood vessels.  The parasympathetic nervous system has a “rest-and-digest” response, which acts to slow the heart rate, increase gastrointestinal activity, and control the body at rest. The high level of athleticism that is required from the dancer can cause overtraining, which increases activity within the sympathetic nervous system, as compared to the parasympathetic nervous system. In order to decrease sympathetic nervous system activity, and improve recovery, dancers are using the Parasetter® while in-season and off-season.

Below, NYCB soloist, Savannah Lowery, is pictured using the Parasetter® after a full day of rehearsals in order to improve recovery in her body.

Savannah full body parasetter

In addition to the above physiological responses, the sympathetic nervous system also controls the phrenic nerve, which innervates our diaphragm, our main respiratory muscle. Increased sympathetic nervous system activity causes increased activation of the phrenic nerve. When it is overactive, the tone of the diaphragm increases and has limited ability to contract and relax optimally. This produces short/shallow breaths in the dancer and decreases the efficiency of gas exchange within the lungs, which slows the healing process in our bodies. Higher levels of stress in the body can also cause increased levels of the hormone, cortisol, which can delay wound and bone healing when present at high levels. Many dancers experience injury to skin and bone, so optimizing healing is essential.

Equal movement between the upper and lower thoracic spine/rib cage, as well as 5-8 breaths/minute has been shown to be the best technique to optimize balance within our autonomic nervous system. The Parasetter® uses tactile cueing on the posterior aspect of the rib cage, and lower portion of the rib cage to facilitate equal breathing patterns. Most dancers maintain their short/shallow breathes in the upper thoracic region, so distributing the breathe to all regions of the thorax can aide the body in recovery.

PARASETTER® Meditation Made Easy from PhysicalMind Institute on Vimeo.

Marika Molnar, the developer of the Parasetter®, has been working with many dancers using the Parasetter® for recovery. Visit The Physical Mind Institute website: www.physicalmindinstitute.com to learn more, and purchase your Parasetter®.