Expressing Yourself Via the Performing Arts

Osteoarthritis — You Should Be Dancing

by Gina Ferguson

If you've just been diagnosed with osteoarthritis (OA), you might be feeling overwhelmed with all the information you've been given—the most prominent piece being that this common form of arthritis isn't curable.

You may have been told that in some people, episodes are intermittent, meaning people will have good days or weeks when the symptoms are mild or non-existent. You'll also know that OA varies in severity between different people and affected different areas of the body.

So, with such a diagnosis, you may be looking at the title of this piece and thinking, 'OA is no reason to dance.' But you couldn't be more wrong. Dance classes offer an excellent way to build muscle strength while keeping your body flexible and your mind happy. Read on for three types of dance classes you can take and how you might modify them to suit you.

Belly Dancing Classes

This rhythmic style of dance can be great for people with OA. The movements are slow, isolated and performed with both feet flat on the ground. You'll do hip circles and shoulder shimmies within this type of dance, which is great for increasing your range of movement. Look for a class that is suitable for beginners and work at your own pace. Don't push yourself onto more complex movements until you've built up the strength and range of movement to do so.

Zumba Classes

Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance class not dissimilar to salsa. The music is fast and upbeat to match this hip-swinging style of dance. If you can't find classes that are aimed at older people with physical limitations, look for a beginner class. Start slowly and listen to your body, taking breaks as often as you need to. If you find the pace of Zumba too fast, slow it down to a pace that is manageable for you. The important thing is that you're moving and enjoying yourself.

Pole Dancing Classes

Pole dancing is not just about looking sexy and performing for an audience. This type of dancing is an excellent way to build muscle strength and flexibility — both will be of great benefit when managing your OA as the symptoms progress. You'll need to think carefully about whether this type of dance class will work with your symptoms. Pole dancing requires upper body strength and the ability to grip a pole tightly enough to keep you off the ground and attached to it. If your OA affects your hands and wrists, this may not be a class for you.

Before beginning any new dance class, check with your doctor about the suitability of the class for you. You should also speak to the dance instructor before you start — let them know of your physical limitations so that they can guide you on movements that work better for you. Look for dance classes near you for more information.