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Last addition: December 2008

I have been taking lessons for approximately 4 months. During this time I have had to go to a Physical Therapist 3 times. My lower back and hips are causing me a lot of pain. I can't stand the thought of giving up. Belly dancing has done wonders for me in so many ways. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to keep my hips from hurting?

— submitted by Brenda

Dear Brenda,

Stop! If it is causing you pain, don’t do it. It’s hard for me to understand your condition without seeing you move, and knowing you and more of your circumstances, such as weight, posture, and age. It could be something else that is going on in your life and /or in your body that is causing your pain because it’s not normal for you to be in pain or have to see a physical therapist. It could be a combination of things like new exercise and the bed you are sleeping in. Just how much belly dance are you doing in these short four months? Maybe you are doing too much, too fast.

There are all sorts of approaches to physical therapy. I have no idea what they have suggested for you or what their take is regarding what is going on with you. If you were my student, I would ask you to stop and also would want to talk to your physical therapist. Physical therapists have all sorts of very subtle exercises for strengthening and relieving stress. It’s a good thing you are seeing one.

I’m not saying this is what you have, but. . .
In general, dancers sometimes get what I call “Belly Dancer Hip” (you know, like tennis elbow). Usually, it would flare up in one hip after too much stretching of that hip (it is not usually accompanied with lower back pain) and the only cure is to lay off for a period. It can take a while to heal. During that healing process the dancer lays off any extended hip moves with the offending hip, uses the the other hip and concentrates on arm work, veil work, belly rolls for a while. I’ve had it a few times in my long career. While I was dancing 6 nights a week and teaching a lot I had to teach myself to use my other hip more while demonstrating for class. I learned to stay very conscious about what and why and for how long I was doing any movement pattern or stretch with the sore hip. It went away slowly, but would go away much faster when I simply laid off it completely with some down time between gigs..

Lower back pain can be caused by the dancer not activating her buttocks muscles enough while dancing, so the lower back doesn't receive enough support. This can happen to seasoned professionals that slack off and get lazy. They just need a reminder (a little kick in the pants ) and it usually goes away.

Arnica cream, Traumeel, and BenGay-type products are good for easing any pain. Alternating ice and heat. Ask your therapist. They seem to keep changing opinions on what is best.

— Delilah

I am 14 years old. I have always wanted to belly dance. I weigh around 200 lbs, but really don’t look that big. I was hoping you could help. We don’t even know where to begin looking anymore. My grandma says I need to like my body more ...to be more comfortable with my body. I am, personally. I want to loose weight and I thought dancing would really help.

— submitted by Hawaiichicka

Dear Hawaiichicka,

I'm glad you are comfortable with your body. However, I think everyone wants you to be healthy in your body as well. Being 200 pounds is a bit much for most of us. It can cause a sleeping disorder called Sleep Apnea that can make life very difficult. A lack of sleep will stop you from metabolizing nutrients in your body and stop you from thinking clearly. It can also cause a heart attack even in young people.

Weight Watchers is what I would recommend. You can do it online.
http://www.weightwatchers.com/index.aspx

You will be able to eat a lot of food and still loose weight on their diet plan. It is very successful for people of all ages.

To find a dance teacher in your area, see Candra's question and answer section on where to find a good teacher and class. You'll also need to purchase an instructional video to get started. Refer to Candra's answer on learning from videos and DVDs.

Good Luck!

— Delilah

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