Arthritis is a chronic disease characterized by inflammation of the joints. It is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65, but it can also develop in children, teens, and younger adults. There are no UAE-specific statistics, but numbers from the Gulf region suggest that the prevalence is 20% of the population.
Although there is no cure for arthritis, with the right kind of medication and lifestyle adjustments, patients can greatly enhance their quality of life. Treatment for arthritis focuses on relieving symptoms and improving joint function. Apart from medication and an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise plays a big role in pain management as well as improving joint function. Dance is one of the popular forms of exercise to manage this chronic disease.
Ahead of World Arthritis Day that will be marked globally and in the UAE on October 12th, Dubai-based classical Kathak dancer Vonita Singh shares how dancing can be beneficial for arthritis.
Dance provides immense physical benefits
For patients with arthritis, movement is critical. Regular movement keeps joints flexible and prevents them from stiffening up. However, in order to experience the full benefit of movement, one must move mindfully. Moving mindfully means moving by augmenting intelligent movement patterns, starting from a pain-free range of motion. Dance as a form of exercise aims to do this. Be it jazz, ballet, salsa or any other form of dance, the emphasis is on mind and body coordination and focus on the movement. Such mindful movement causes movement of joints, which in turn brings about flow of synovial fluid that lubricates those joints and reduces stiffness.
There are mental benefits too
Apart from the improvement in mobility and joint pain, studies consistently indicate that dance as a form of exercise for arthritis patients also brings about positive changes in depression, anxiety, fatigue and tension. In other words, there are definite mental benefits. This is critical for patients with arthritis, as physical issues are only part of the battle. It is equally important to treat mental issues brought on by pain and impact of the disease on lifestyle. Dance is a form of exercise that also supports social inclusion. Studies show that participants report an increased motivation toward exercise because of being with peers, and social activities also showed significant improvement.
Dance allows extensive customisation of your exercise routine
Typically, arthritis patients require tailor-made exercise routines. Each person’s requirements will vary. Before entering a movement class, your doctor should check your functionality. Low-impact cardio-like dance movements are best suited for arthritis patients. A good dance expert should tweak and improvise dance routines depending on the condition of the patient. For example – some patients may sit on a chair and dance, some are able to stand and dance, yet another may do well with slow dance routines that focus on breathing along with movement. Dance allows for as much modification as is necessary, making it an ideal form of exercise for arthritis patients.
Dance and juvenile arthritis
When arthritis strikes patients aged 16 or younger, it is termed juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA). Treatment generally includes both exercise and medications, however for this particular demographic, getting them to exercise can be hard. Children in general are so occupied battling their pain that exercise is a demon. While there is no choice but to exercise, dance does grab their attention. As a form of exercise, kids connect better with dance than with most other forms. If you choose the music they enjoy and choreography appropriate for their condition, it is easy to have them buy into this mode of intervention.
The overall goal in treating arthritis is to look for ways to improve the patient’s quality of life as much as possible. With the vast benefits it offers, dance is certainly a good way to do that.