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Prisma Health launches unique dance rehabilitation program to provide physical therapy support for dancers in the Midlands

Thursday, December 9, 2021

COLUMBIA, S.C.—Prisma Health has launched a dancer-focused physical therapy program to help dancers of all ages and disciplines manage the pain or problems that can arise from the rigors of dance training. The program is led by Katie Smoak, physical therapist assistant at Prisma Health and former professional dancer with the Columbia City Ballet for 17 seasons. The program is held in conjunction with Prisma Health’s orthopedic practice in the Midlands.

“Columbia has a large dance community, so we created this program to help dancers find therapies for problems they’ve been having, whether it’s a chronic injury or injury due to overuse,” said Smoak. “Being a former dancer myself, I understand what demands are placed on the body and can offer dancer-specific exercises to help rehabilitate their issue as safely and quickly as possible. The goal is to get them back to the studio or stage in optimum form.”

Most dance-related injuries occur from using specific joints and muscles too frequently and commonly involve an ankle, leg, foot or lower back. Ashley Concannon is a professional dancer going into her 13th season with the Columbia City Ballet. She has been receiving therapy for several weeks to rehabilitate a partially torn hamstring that was not healing on its own.

This program gives me the opportunity to work with a physical therapist that understands my specific needs as a dancer. Since I started working with Katie, my hamstring has made more progress healing than it ever has over the last nine months. She understands how a dancer’s body moves and has provided me with exercises and stretches to help my hamstring heal more fully,” said Concannon.

Ella White is a 16-year-old dancer at the Columbia Ballet School who has been dancing for over 10 years. She began therapy with Smoak in August to mend hip pain she experienced while dancing.

“Not only has the physical therapy helped with a hip issue I’ve had, but it’s also made me feel stronger and more flexible,” said White. “Working with a former professional dancer is an amazing opportunity because she has the first-hand knowledge to understand my dance vocabulary and can pinpoint exactly where my pain is coming from, why it’s happening and how to help it. She’s taught me things that I can use and apply in class so I can continue to improve.”

Dance rehabilitation program patients are referred to Smoak by an orthopedist, but Smoak also leads a free Black and Blue Clinic for dancers that have not seen a doctor yet and need a quick assessment on a nagging pain or problem. Smoak will assess the dancer and provide exercises to work on at home to help resolve their issue. If problems persist, dancers can return to the clinic, where they can be referred to an orthopedist.

The free Dancer Black and Blue Clinic is held on the first and third Saturday of every month and is located at Prisma Health Orthopedics Rehabilitation in Lexington, 102 Saluda Pointe Dr. To learn more about the clinic or other orthopedic rehabilitation services, visit PrismaHealth.org/OrthopedicsRehab.

About Prisma Health

Prisma Health is a not-for-profit health company and the largest healthcare system in South Carolina. With nearly 30,000 team members, 18 acute and specialty hospitals, 2,947 beds and more than 300 outpatient sites with nearly 2,000 physicians, Prisma Health serves more than 1.2 million unique patients annually in its 21-county market area that covers 50% of South Carolina. Prisma Health’s goal is to improve the health of all South Carolinians by enhancing clinical quality, the patient experience and access to affordable care, as well as conducting clinical research and training the next generation of medical professionals. Visit PrismaHealth.org for more information.

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