Yes, You Can Dance With Arthritis

Dancing with the Stars’ Louis Van Amstel tells how to have fun on the dance floor—minus the pain.

By
Linda Childers
Photo Credit: ©(ABC/CRAIG SJODIN)

If dancing causes...

Knee pain. Louis insists you can join in most dances with this simple swap: “Instead of doing high-impact jumping moves or lunges, you can march in place or tap forward, alternating between your left and right foot.”

Lower back pain. Focus on your abs! “Contract your stomach muscles to make controlled movements that protect your back,” suggests Louis. “A strong core will lower your chances of injury while dancing.” Louis’ favorite way to strengthen his midsection? Pilates, which not only builds muscle strength but also improves your posture, taking stress off the spine.

Hip pain. Louis’ tips: “If you can’t stand for long periods, grab a chair and do a seated cha-cha or some disco arm moves.” And never favor one side to avoid stressing your “good” hip.

If you want a total-body workout...

Dance with dumbbells. "Dancing is a cardio workout, but you can also incorporate light weights to increase intensity and provide a strength-training component," notes Louis, who does just that in his fitness-based LaBlast dance DVDs (found at LaBlastFitness.com), which progress from levels 1 to 5, starting with beginner workouts and building to 15-minute muscle-toning sessions done with weights.

If you’re at a total loss...

Clap to the beat! If your feet start failing you mid-dance, just put your hands together, says Louis. “If you can clap the rhythm, then you can dance it!”

Tap an expert. If you’re taking a class, tell the instructor ahead of time about your arthritis and ask what adjustments you can make to avoid joint pain. Rather go solo? Louis suggests that if you want to work out with a dance video at home, meet with a physical therapist first who can show you how to adapt the moves.

Tell your healthcare provider. Let the doctor know your goal, whether it’s line dancing, taking a Zumba class or mastering a dance video. There’s probably a way to time your pain meds or try options like knee braces that can bring enough relief to help achieve your goal.

A peek at Louis' playlist

We asked the dance pro what kind of music helps him stay motivated during a workout. His top picks:

'70s dance music (aka disco!):
"Boogie Wonderland," by Earth, Wind & Fire
"That's the Way I Like It," by KC and the Sunshine Band
"You Should Be Dancing," by the Bee Gees

Current pop music:
"California Gurls," by Katy Perry
"I Wanna Go," by Britney Spears
"Birthday Cake," by Rihanna

Published
October 2012