Relieving Back Pain through Belly Dance

       It’s estimated that 80% of people will experience some sort of back pain at some point in their lives. One of the most common causes of back pain is sitting for too long hunched over a computer, at a work desk, or driving.  This can lead to weak back and tight chest muscles. Ideally, you should not sit for more than 20 minutes at a time, but most of us have jobs which makes this impossible.  Stretching and strengthening back and chest muscles will help both ease and prevent back pain.  


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     Many doctors will recommend Pilates to stretch and strengthen the muscles needed to alleviate back pain but few know how belly dance can be even more beneficial! While Pilates will undoubtedly help build core and back muscles if practiced regularly, the fact is, it is not fun enough for most of us to practice more than when absolutely necessary. Belly dance works those same core and back muscles in a much more engaging way, meaning that you are more likely to practice it more often and remember to integrate the proper posture into your daily life.


       If the pain in your back is in your upper back and shoulders, moves like shoulder rolls, chest circles and the chest camel will help eliminate and prevent this pain and correct slouched-posture making you look fitter and more confident. If the pain is in your lower back moves like ‘belly rolls‘ and the ‘flame‘ will help strengthen core and muscles, correcting improper pelvic alignment. The ‘full camel’ is the ideal move for any kind of back pain as it is a gentle rolling massage-like movement.  Though the ‘full camel’ can be challenging, done properly it will stretch and strengthen all the muscles along the spine as well as your chest and core muscles leading to proper poster in the back and shoulders and better pelvic alignment.     


       Another major cause of back pain is excess weight. If you carry weight in your breasts and stomach rather than in your hips, this extra weight can lead to pelvic misalignment which, in turn, can cause conditions like piriformis syndrome and excruciating sciatica.  If you suspect that your back pain is caused by excess weight, make sure to practice the calorie-burning Shimmy episodes like Episode 5: From Camp to Cabaret, Episode 10: Hips Galore or Episode 16: Hops through Flames at least three times a week. 


         Stretching is also an extremely important part of relieving back pain.  The opening warm ups in  Episode 1: Hips, Hops and a Shimmy and Episode 18: The Camel’s Garden are particularly good for stretching and strengthening back muscles.   You can practice these quick warm-ups as often as you like — you don’t have to complete the full episode after, though I bet if you do finish what you started you will feel great! 


        A lot of back pain is a muscular reaction as the back goes into spasm in order to stop you from injuring your vertebrae. Because of this, the most important thing to remember with regard to back pain and any exercise program is IF IT HURTS, DON’T DO IT! Gentle stretching and strengthening should feel good and if not, take a break and get back at it when your body tells you that you are ready.


**The information in this article should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program particularly if back pain has been caused by an accident.**