Physical therapy can offer life-changing treatment for individuals who have suffered accidents, are living with degenerative diseases, or are recovering after surgical interventions. Traditional treatments are performed in controlled environments with proven techniques that are administered by trained practitioners. Dance therapy is not a new idea, but ballroom dance has become particularly accessible after having enjoyed a renaissance of recognition through popular shows like Dancing with the Stars. According to a scientific review of several trials, the physical and psychological effects of therapeutic movement and dance are statistically supported.
In 2012, the Institute of Social Medicine, Epidemiology, and Health Economics at Charite University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany produced a report that encompasses the results of 11 randomized trials investigating the effects of dance treatment and ballroom dances on physical and mental illnesses. While the experiments were performed on small test groups primarily based in the United States and Scandanavia, the results were hopeful and call for more extensive and targeted research.
Patients in these studies suffered from a range of illnesses including breast cancer, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s Disease, and depression, among others. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease who underwent physical therapy treatments with the Argentine tango, foxtrot, and waltz achieved better static and dynamic balance as well as coordination than those who did strength and flexibility exercises.
Patients with breast cancer who underwent dance therapy achieved a greater range of motion in their shoulders, a more positive body image, and an improved quality of life. Patients with dementia showed improved visuospatial and planning abilities over the control group who did not participate in dance therapy. Patients with mild depression showed a statistically significant increase in serotonin concentrations in their plasma after 12 weeks of ballroom dance as well as a decrease in their symptoms and disease severity.
Impressively, patients with fibromyalgia who underwent dance classes once a week for 6 months experienced increased hormone release including neuropeptide Y, which a 2006 study by Yehuda R. Brand indicated may be associated with improved recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder. Plus, utilizing the global assessment scale, these patients achieved increased wellbeing and a statistically significant decrease in pain.
This study clearly states that additional research is required to obtain more substantial insight into using movement and ballroom dance as therapeutic tools for physical therapists. If you are currently undergoing or find yourself in need of physical therapy, be sure to check in with a licensed therapist before hitting the dance floor. Every case is unique, but if you are open to exploring alternative therapies, ballroom dance may be a way to build your body up while letting your hair down.