Medical Program for Performing Artists

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To meet the unique needs of performers, the Medical Program for Performing Artists was established in 1988 by Dr. Jerome Gilden, orthopaedic specialist in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Our program provides dancers, musicians, actors, artists and singers with quality medical treatment in an effective and timely manner. Our goal is for performers to return to performance at full function and reduce their risk for future injury. To schedule an appointment with a performing arts specialist, please call (314) 747-2787(ARTS). 

Commonly Treated Conditions

  • Bursitis
  • Elbow, wrist and hand pain
  • Hip pain
  • Knee, ankle and foot pain
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Overuse injuries
  • Shoulder pain
  • Tendonitis
  • Ergonomic and postural problems
  • Stress fractures

Our Team

Many of our clinicians in the Medical Program for Performing Artists program are former musicians and dancers, which provides a unique background and a great passion for providing medical care to the performing arts community. With diverse training in orthopedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation (physiatry), and physical therapy, our team is highly-skilled at treating injuries and conditions seen in performing artists. We have worked with a wide variety of patients, including dancers, musicians, circus artists, figure skaters, and gymnasts. Our clinicians are actively involved in research to improve treatment outcomes in dancers, and are members of the Performing Arts Medicine Association (PAMA) and the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS).

Treatment Approach

Each performer has unique needs and goals. With this in mind, we will design a customized therapeutic treatment plan for each patient. Individualized treatment plans may include any of the following services:

Physician Consultation
Before receiving therapy services, a performer may require a diagnosis and treatment plan. In this case, a physician will first evaluate the condition and coordinate a treatment plan which may include care from any of the services listed below.

Physical Therapy*
Physical therapists work with the performer to restore function of the joints and muscles, improve balance and endurance, and restore neuromuscular balance to facilitate performance. *Please note that you must have a physician's prescription to receive therapy services.

Occupational Therapy
Occupational therapists help to restore the hand and upper extremity functions needed to perform specific maneuvers while playing an instrument. This often involves stretching and strengthening exercises as well as splinting and ergonomic recommendations. VOICE THERAPY * Performers can improve their vocal quality, resonance and endurance by seeking help from a speech-language pathologist. Therapists identify vocal abuse or misuse on and off stage, then develop treatments for reducing voice fatigue, hoarseness and loss of voice. They also reinforce posture and breathing techniques for speaking and performing.

Chiropractic Care
Many musculoskeletal injuries respond well to chiropractic intervention with manual therapy. Chiropractic referral can be made according to individual need or performer’s request. ACUPUNCTURE Acupuncture can be effective for many health problems that may limit musicians, singers and dancers. It is a subtle way to rebalance the body, and regular treatments can lead to alleviated pain and maintained health.

Medical Massage
Medical massage therapy may assist the healing process in musculoskeletal conditions, and in acute and chronic pain related to connective tissue disorders.

Patient Stories

Tanya Strautmann - Hip Labral Tear

In her 12 years with the St. Louis Ballet company — during which time she danced many lead roles and rose to international acclaim — principal ballerina Tanya Strautmann had missed only one day of class and performing. So when hip pain forced her to take two days off in the Spring of 2008, she knew she had crossed the threshold from what she calls “good pain” into “bad pain.”

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Read Tanya's Story

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