This series was first published in 2014 for Arizona Dance e-Star, a publication of the Arizona Dance Coalition. In this series of articles you’ll learn how to treat low back pain… hip and groin pain… knee and leg pain… and ankle and foot pain. In Part 1 I’ll introduce you to this easy-to-learn pain erasing technique, share what really causes muscle pain and what YOU, the dancer, can do about it.


Drawing of young dancer by Bonnie PruddenThe Beginning
ONCE UPON A TIME in 1918, a curious and fearless little girl climbed out her second story nursery window, shinnied down the nearby tree and went visiting in the middle of the night. After the third call to come collect their four-year-old daughter, her mother took her to the doctor. The wise doctor told her mother,

“There is nothing wrong with this child that discipline and exhaustion won’t cure; put her in the Koslov Russian ballet school.”

A year in the Koslov School was followed by Magna Dance School… Alviene… German Turnverein… and Finnish Hall. Although she had achieved professional status by age 10, it wouldn’t be until after high school that she appeared on Broadway with the Weidman Humphrey Concert Dancers.

That little girl was Bonnie Prudden.

Who Is Bonnie Prudden?
Bonnie Prudden has many firsts to her credit, but there are two for which she is best known:

The first was in 1955. It was her report on the Unfitness of American Children, during a White House luncheon with President Eisenhower presiding, that led to the formation of the President’s Council on Youth Fitness.

The second was her development of the discipline which she called Myotherapy, a way to erase muscle pain.

And in this series it is Myotherapy that YOU will be learning to use.

You’ll learn how to treat muscle pain… low back pain… hip and groin pain… knee and leg pain… and ankle and foot pain with an easy-to-learn technique called Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®.  First I’ll introduce you to this easy-to-learn pain erasing technique, outline the causes of muscle pain and then show YOU how to use the techniques for yourself and fellow dancers.

Dancer drawing by Bonnie PruddenThe Dancer
The success of the dance teacher is often judged by the ability of the students to dance. The ability of the student to dance is always limited by the quality of the instrument, the student’s body.

Each student’s ability to dance is dependent first of all on the strengths and weaknesses of the instrument. Dance, when it is done well, is one of the most difficult sports we have. It is also the best training for any sport and, begun at a young age, with the right teacher, it can make a good athlete into a star.

Dancer bending over by Bonnie PruddenThe dangers in dance are many, and mostly to the feet, legs, hips, groin and low back which house multiple muscle problems. Shin splints and calf-muscle spasm are more numerous than knee problems, but if one of the quadriceps muscles goes into spasm, because it is so powerful the damage can be extreme.

Keep in mind that if one muscle is in spasm it can throw you off so that your turns are incomplete and you may land wrong from a leap. One injury then leads to another and another…

Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®
Myotherapy, fix the muscle, is a discipline which can not only erase the injuries, aches and pains associated with dance, it is a technique that can be learned by dancers in order to keep each other pain free. In addition, Myotherapy can be used to prevent the recurrence of old injuries and prevent new ones. A pain-free dancer who can perform at top strength with full range of motion, can turn in a gold medal performance. Dancers are the Olympians of the Performing Arts!

Muscle Pain and Trigger Points
Most muscle pain is caused by trigger points, irritable spots that get into the muscle when it is injured in some way. Trigger points cause the muscle to spasm, resulting in pain, resulting in more spasm… the spasm, pain, spasm cycle.

Basically there are 5 ways to collect trigger points: birth, accidents, occupations, sports and hobbies. But it is the “weak link” plus stress plus the “precipitating incident” OR “triggering mechanism” that usually brings on the pain.

Trigger Points + Stress + Triggering Mechanism = Chronic Pain 

  • Our misshapen head, after a tough journey down the birth canal, rounds out and is forgotten until the pressure of the SAT exams loom, hunched shoulders during study time at the computer increases and the resulting headache ensues.
  • The fall from the jungle gym resulting in a broken femur is forgotten until the dancer begins to feel the pain of the unyielding quadriceps spasm while practicing a grand jeté during dress rehearsal.

How Myotherapy Works
Myotherapy is a method for relaxing muscle spasm, improving circulation, and alleviating pain. Pressure is applied, using elbows, knuckles, or fingers, and held for five to seven seconds to defuse trigger points. This allows the muscle to relax. The success of this method depends upon the use of specific corrective exercises for the freed muscles. The method was developed by Bonnie Prudden in 1976 and laid out in her book Pain Erasure the Bonnie Prudden Way.

Looking for trigger point in arm - drawing by Bonnie PruddenSearch, Squash and Stretch
Search – To find a trigger point, lay your left arm palm down on a table. Make a fist with your right hand and extend the middle knuckle. Bring your knuckle down onto the TOP surface of your arm at about half an inch down from the bend in your elbow.

Knocked out trigger point - drawing by Bonnie PruddenSquash – Press in slowly, as though trying to push through to the table underneath. Does it hurt? If it does, you have found a trigger point. On a scale of 1 to 10, hold the pressure at a pain level of 5, 6, 7 for seven seconds. Release the pressure slowly. Think of that trigger point as “knocked out” or in disarray. While the trigger point is lying there in a confused state perform step three… 

Shoulder exercise - drawing by Bonnie PruddenStretch – Extend your arm straight forward and twist it clockwise until your thumb points to the ceiling. Then rotate it counter-clockwise until thumb points to the wall. Repeat four times to a slow rhythm. The area treated will often feel warmer, lighter and looser. The exercise tells the muscle that it must learn a new habit and is all important to keeping muscle pain away.  

Basically, that’s it. Once the basics are understood they can be applied to any area of the body. And yes, you can do it too.

Bodies talk to their occupiers, but that doesn’t mean anybody’s listening. The one you have now must last you a lifetime – hopefully without banging, rattling, clicking, panting, wheezing or collapsing. Pain is a warning, and it is best to listen when it first begins to whisper, before it gets to the nudging or banging stage.

And the sobering thought is… you make the difference.

So now you know: What is a trigger point? How did it get there? What does it do? How can I get rid of it? And why do I need to stretch afterward?

In the next issue, I’ll show you how to get rid of back pain.


For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®