Is dancing good for lower back pain?

Of course the answer is YES, except when it hurts. Let’s dive into this a little bit.

Firstly, why is dancing good for lower back pain?  It’s good because, fundamentally, movement is good for you. Your body needs movement. The body responds to movement, encouraging healing, and so dancing, as a form of movement, is good for lower back pain, except as I said, when it hurts. This is just another way of phrasing my well-worn catchphrase: “Use it or lose it but don’t abuse it” so the “don’t abuse it” means don’t do it if it hurts. Otherwise, movement is good because it retains the physical capacity you have and it may even extend it. So yes, dancing is good because movement is good.

But why in particular is dancing a good form of movement? There is research to show that many people move in a more fluid relaxed way, which is less threatening than more formal, structured, rehabilitation exercises. So when I get people to do a specific set of exercises, many people tense up as they do them, which is not good, whereas to just gently sway to the music, in your kitchen, dancing is much less threatening, and therefore often performed with less background muscle tension, and consequently less likely to induce painful muscle spasms. So, for the reason that it’s less threatening, it can be a particularly good form of movement.

Secondly, for many people it’s more enjoyable than doing specific rehabilitation exercises, and if it is more enjoyable, it’s more sustainable. So dancing is a particularly good thing to do if you have back pain or recurrent lower back pain.

It’s less threatening, it’s more enjoyable, and therefore, more sustainable and ticks the box of “Use it or lose it but don’t abuse it”.

Now, what if it does hurt? If it hurts, you need to work out which movement or combination of movements seems to aggravate your lower back, and either stop doing those or do them in a different way so that it doesn’t hurt.

I appreciate that it may be difficult to pin it down if the pain isn’t there at the time, but comes on after you’ve finished dancing; but certainly, if you’re dancing and you feel back pain while dancing, then stop. Think about “what movement was I doing?”, and try to eliminate that movement or do it differently next time you dance.

The other thing to do is perhaps enroll in the Active X Backs training course, the online course we have for lower back pain and sciatica sufferers, because there are a specific set of exercises in there that are designed to strengthen, and improve the endurance and postural alignment of your lower back and the rest of you, and as such, they may make your dance experience that much less painful and therefore, more enjoyable.

So consider doing specific exercises to supplement your dancing, and in the meantime cut out the movements that are painful.

As a little review, yes, dancing is good for back pain except when it hurts, because this adheres to the “Use it or lose it but don’t abuse it” principle. It’s less threatening, it’s more enjoyable, and therefore more sustainable. If it does hurt, then cut out the movements that seem to be the problematic ones. Otherwise, in the great words of Len Goodman….  “Keeeeeeep dancing!”

About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.

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