Problems with lower back while dancing

Shahzada

New member
Has any one of you ever had problems with lower back, pain in particular, that escalates while belly dancing? I don't know whether I had problem with lower back before, but I started experiencing pain during the dance classes few years ago. And last year it got worse, and I went to physiotherapy, I don't experience sciatica type of pain any more, but it hurts me when I want to dance the way I used to, before I stopped in order to heal myself. Does any one of you have any experience with this? I thought belly dancing was a safe dance, not the one you can actually hurt yourself by. Now I'm annoyed, and worried whether it's safe for me to continue dancing?
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
I had a conversation about this with my Chiropractor a few years ago. According to him the biggest problem he sees with dancers that come to him is hyper-flexibility to the point it is no longer supporting your structure properly. This can be overcome with proper posture. It's also a problem that Michelle Joyce was having which eventually led to her 30 Day Posture Makeover DVD. I own it and it is great. In fact all of her instruction DVD's are great and she talks about posture in all the ones I've seen... but it's been a few years so I'm having trouble remembering the titles. I think her Drills! Drills! Drills! DVD was the main one but don't quote me on it. Anyway, bottom line, posture matters and hyper-extension without the necessary core strength to support it is bad for you long term. Physiotherapy is a good start. A good Chiropractor, building core strength, and practicing with attention to your posture will help too.

(Normally I would also say to get a Dr to check and make sure there isn't anything else wrong as well but having gone to a physiotherapist I assume that was looked into.)

Hope this helps a little.
 

Zorba

"The Veiled Male"
The obvious question that I have to ask is, "Is your pelvis tucked"? If it isn't, that could be contributing to your issue, especially with Maias and other side-to-side hip movements. If my lower back starts to hurt, its because I'm not tucked - and on *this* body anyway, its essential! Caveat: My situation with pain when not being tucked may be exacerbated by the fact that I'm a male with a male hip structure - however, keeping the pelvis tucked is always emphasized. YMMV and all that...
 

Tourbeau

Active member
We had a conversation a while ago in another thread about skeletal problems due to foot abnormalities. If you have issues with your feet (and especially if a doctor has already recommended you wear orthotics), dancing barefoot can cause all sorts of misalignments to ripple up the body. If you need to wear supportive shoes instead of dancing barefoot, don't let busybodies or aesthetics convince you you shouldn't. Your feet are your foundation.

At the risk of asking the most obvious questions, when you are "dancing the way you used to," do you have good posture? Are you tucking your pelvis too much or not enough? Hyperextending or locking your knees? Leaning too far forward or backward? Doing things that put weird stresses on your spine, like some sort of backbend without supporting the move with proper muscular engagement?

Belly dancing is generally a low risk, low impact activity, but that doesn't guarantee it won't expose or exacerbate an underlying skeletal issue. There should be a solution to your problem, whether it is an assessment by a dance teacher who also does body alignment work (Pilates, Alexander, Feldenkrais, etc.), additional physical or sports therapy, a new exercise/strengthening routine, or a rigorous overhaul of your dance technique, so you can retool and get back to pain-free dancing.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
Another thought...Are you by any chance a tribal-style dancer? There are certain aspects of tribal ("fence" posture, working one side more than the other, upper-body isolations with laybacks, etc.) that can be problematic for some bodies. It doesn't mean you would need to give up dancing. You may just need to modify your routine (take more stretching breaks, practice the moves on the other side separately, better core engagement, etc.) to compensate and/or balance your efforts.
 

Shahzada

New member
Thank you for your responses. I generally think my pelvis is tucked, because even as I stand, I don't have much room to tuck it any further. Though, I'll focus more on that one in general, just in case. About my posture, well, maybe it could be better. Prior to belly dancing I had some issues with upper back. Nothing serious, just a bad posture. But when I started dancing all occasional pain I experienced in my back just went away for many years, until this thing happened with my lower back. Now, as I am pausing with dance, I don't feel comfortable in my back in general.

When it comes to feet, I did notice they changed for the better while dancing, but after several years of dancing, I noticed sensitivity in my heels. My doctor told me it is not connected to my spine, but it has to do with putting too much pressure on them and wearing flat shoes all the time. I will, hopefully, when I return to dancing, buy some dance shoes with stronger heels.

Now, the part about dancing. I mostly experience pain when doing one movement, I don't know the word for it in English, its like when you do downward Maya, but you put accents, so one hip goes down the other one up, but the focus is on down accent. That is the first time I experienced pain, while learning that movement, my ex teacher's student was teaching us, it was a very aggressive approach. And you did remind me @Tourbeau, that my ex teacher forced a lot of forward extensions, and now I realize they were not done properly... Yes, now I understand, my doctor told me the 'injury' happened while extending forward.

I'm not a tribal dancer, though I did experiment with it, and went to some workshops as well, I generally like it, and I liked the idea of being snake like...
I understand now that I need more serious approach to this. I am doing exercises for spine daily, and I will look more into posture and core exercises. Do you suggest Pilates?
 

Ariadne

Well-known member
A lot of serious dancers I know of do Pilates for just that. In fact there are a few instruction DVD's out there by dancers on Pilates including Michelle Joyce's Mix and Match Fitness Fusion, and I'm sure others here can recommend something specific. My dance teacher (back when I still had one) used Callenetics by Callan Pinckney. It's advertised as deep muscle exercise that also improves your posture and oh my gosh does it do that. It's also gentle on your back for those of us who have to worry about it. I don't recommend yoga unless you have a good instructor who can correct your posture. Not that you mentioned yoga but it usually comes up eventually in these conversations.
 

Daimona

Moderator
My first thought was also the tucking the pelvis i.e. getting it to the "neutral" position, as opposed to too far back or too far forward. Although, I'm not sure this is your problem.

The good thing about belly dance is that it is adaptable - if you can't do it one way because of pain, do it another. If the hard downward movements hurts, soften up, change the choreography etc. A dancer friend of mine was in a serious bus accident and hurt her shoulder, and couldn't lift her right arm straight out and up. Changing her focus from what she couldn't do to what she actually was able to do, caused her to adapt her dance and anyone who didn't know about this wouldn't know when she performed.
 

Shahzada

New member
I've never heard of Callenetics before, I'll check it out. So Pilates is ok, that's great news, there are classes in local gym. And about yoga, well... I do do it in the morning, but just a little bit, no crazy asanas or anything, mostly with focus on breathing.

As for tucking the pelvis, I don't know, I belive it's naturally balanced for me, I never bothered too much with it. But doctors do put a stress on that one and also in ballet, everything is done with tucked pelvis, it's literally a must.
 

Shahzada

New member
Yes, I know, we have a lot of room to adapt and be creative with it. I personally in general prefer softer movements, it feels better and looks more artistic as oppose to the too harsh and too agressive ones that are probably unsafe to do as well.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
I mostly experience pain when doing one movement, I don't know the word for it in English, its like when you do downward Maya, but you put accents, so one hip goes down the other one up, but the focus is on down accent.
I'm not quite sure what you are describing--a smooth over-and-down infinity or the sort of percussive over-and-drop accent that Shakira (the singer) does? Are you twisting while you do it or moving on an angle, or does it stay in the torso plane?

This may sound peculiar, but what does it feel like if you do the move lying down on your back with your feet flat on the ground (or bed) and knees bent? Obviously, you are not going to have much range of motion like this, but it forces you to isolate the movement and it might clue you in to where the problem is, especially if you have been moving in a way you didn't realize. It should also clarify if you didn't realize you were driving the move by pushing up through the leg, instead of isolating it more specifically between the knees and ribcage.

Do you suggest Pilates?
Pilates was originally developed to be a rehab program, so in theory, it should be worth looking into. As one of the many millions of self-proclaimed experts on the internet, I am wildly unqualified to give advice, but that never stopped anyone, and I think if you pursue Pilates, you might try looking for someone who does "classical" style on a reformer, instead of "modern" style in a class. "Modern" practitioners are sort of like yoga teachers--some of them are wonderful and YMMV on some of the other ones.
 

Shahzada

New member
I think it's accent that Shakira does. I don't twist, I'm doing it properly, I have pretty good control over my body. It's either from an injury caused while learning the move with unprofessional 'teacher', or it might be from sitting in bad positions over many years, and this movement enhanced the issue I didn't know was there.
Thanks for your suggestions, I will inform myself properly about Pilates and other stuff that can help.
 

Tourbeau

Active member
I think it's accent that Shakira does.
What Shakira is doing around 1:30?


Or more like what Sadie is doing around 1:20?


And for reference, here's Bozenka, Shakira's...teacher? choreographer? collaborator? doing a lot of down accents around 2:10.


Personally, I don't find it comfortable to do a hip drop as far out of body line as Shakira does, so I can see how it could be causing you problems. You could try to increase your range of motion by stretching into a hip slide and then pressing that hip down, but otherwise, honestly, Shakira can keep this move AFAIC. Sadie's and Bozenka's versions are much more reasonable, not to mention closer to how native Middle Easterners actually dance (although neither of them would be considered hardline ethno-purist dancers...not that there's anything wrong with being AmCabby).

When Shakira was first becoming a thing (and driving waves of new students to classes), there was a lot of discussion about authenticity (she fuses in a number of Latin and Caribbean dance influences, not the least of which is Reggaeton) and posture (Shakira will not be dancing with that much lower back curve and that many aggressive joint slams into her old age).

TL;DR: Shakira was great for recruiting, but not anyone whose dancing you should be modeling, unless you are very limber, young, and unconcerned with the prospect of hurting yourself. Also, if your goal is to be a cultural traditionalist, hers isn't.
 

Shahzada

New member
Actually none of those really...
It's this one, if you know tell me an English or Arabic name for that movement, it starts at 1:27
Though I think my teacher made it even more aggressive and strong, as Randa Kamel would do it.
But I think that's the movement that activated something for me, I don't know. I can do it softly, but only little bit... And those huge Shakira movements were actually easier for me, probably they are softer for spine...
 

Tourbeau

Active member
I've heard that move called "weighted down" "Souheir Zaki," "down accent," and "chonk." The traveling version was one of Souheir's signature moves, but she was also famous for doing the standing ones. She does it in multiple places here, but compare the three accents she does at 1:25 to Badriya's version of the move above.


Souheir's movements were always clean, and she could generate crispness without looking violently sharp.

It's sort of hard to explain the difference in muscular control between the various down accents we have here, but in some ways, it takes more strength to have "good brakes" and restraint than to slam into the maximum range of your motion with a lot of energy. Personally, I prefer the less-is-more look, but the trend has been toward bigger! faster! stronger! for years now, so I am fighting the tide.

Getting back to the original question, what kind of side stretches do you do? Do you practice pelvic rotation stretches?
 

Shahzada

New member
I'm sorry for this late reply, it seems that I didn't get the email or it went to spam, and I didn't remember to sign in lately... Yes, Zaki does it so softly, I love those soft movements, and feeling of relaxation and ease. That's the thing I'm after from now on, I don't care what's popular, I seriously think this dance offers a room for artistic expression.
Anyway, about the stretches, I do some of them daily in general, only the ones I find useful, I don't know the names, but most of them are recommended from physiotherapists... Now is the weird time, honestly I'm waiting for virus situation to calm down so I could go to some chiropractor and do other examinations, but I think it's time for me to slowly start practicing on my own, or with some online material, I really need dance back in my life. I'll go slow, and this time, I'll focus on my own vision and artistic feeling, and do the movements that feel good, that's ok I think...
 
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