Dance therapy is a healing approach that involves using dance and movement to improve physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Like music therapy, dance therapy is thought to promote healing in part by encouraging self-expression. Also said to reduce stress, improve self-confidence, and enhance mobility and muscle coordination, dance therapy is often incorporated into recovery programs for people with chronic illness.
The Science Behind Dance Therapy
To date, research on dance therapy's health effects is fairly limited. Here's a look at some key study findings:
1) Dance Therapy and Cancer
Several studies show that dance therapy may benefit people recovering from cancer. For instance, a 2005 study of 35 breast cancer survivors found a 12-week dance therapy program improved body image, quality of life, and range of motion in the shoulders.
2) Dance Therapy and the Elderly
Dance therapy may help reduce risk of falling among elderly people, a 2010 study suggests. The study involved 11 seniors, all of whom took part in dance therapy sessions three times a week for six weeks. Study results showed that the treatment helped improve balance and walking ability, suggesting that dance therapy could help prevent falls (a major cause of injury among older adults).
3) Dance Therapy and Mental Health
There's no evidence to either support of refute the use of dance therapy in treatment of schizophrenia, according to a research review published in 2009. The review analyzed one study of 45 schizophrenia patients, finding no significant improvement in those who underwent dance therapy (compared to those who received routine care alone).
Should You Use Dance Therapy?
Due to the lack of science behind dance therapy, this approach cannot currently be recommended for the treatment or prevention of any health condition. If you're considering the use of dance therapy to treat a specific health problem, it's important to consult your doctor before beginning a dance therapy program. While dance therapy is generally considered safe, people with cancer and/or chronic conditions like arthritis and heart disease may need to take certain precautions when using dance therapy. It's also important to work only with a qualified dance therapist, such as those who hold the title "Dance Therapists Registered."
American Cancer Society. "Dance Therapy"
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Krampe J, Rantz MJ, Dowell L, Schamp R, Skubic M, Abbott C. "Dance-based therapy in a program of all-inclusive care for the elderly: an integrative approach to decrease fall risk." Nurs Adm Q. 2010 34(2):156-61.
Sandel SL, Judge JO, Landry N, Faria L, Ouellette R, Majczak M. "Dance and movement program improves quality-of-life measures in breast cancer survivors." Cancer Nurs. 2005 28(4):301-9.
Xia J, Grant TJ. "Dance therapy for schizophrenia." Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009 21;(1):CD006868.