Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Dance therapy

Dance therapy uses movement to improve mental and physical well-being. It is a recognized form of complementary therapy used in hospitals and comprehensive clinical cancer centers.

Can dance therapy help people with cancer?
How does dance therapy work?
Are there any possible problems or complications associated with dance therapy?

Can dance therapy help people with cancer?

Several clinical reports suggest that dance therapy helps people accomplish the following:

  • Develop positive body image.
  • Improve self-concept and self-esteem.
  • Rreduce stress, anxiety and depression.
  • Decrease isolation, chronic pain and body tension.
  • Increase communication skills.
  • Encourage a sense of well-being.

For some cancer patients, dance therapy is an effective form of exercise. However, dance therapy has not been studied enough to know if there are any unique health benefits to cancer patients, or to confirm the effects on prevention and/or recovery of illness.

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How does dance therapy work?

The physical benefits of dance therapy as exercise are well documented. Experts have shown that physical activity is known to increase special neurotransmitter substances in the brain (endorphins), which create a state of well-being. And total body movement such as dance enhances the functions of other body systems, such as circulatory, respiratory, skeletal and muscular systems. Dance therapy can help you stay physically fit and enjoy the pleasure of creating rhythmic motions with your body.

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Are there any possible problems or complications associated with dance therapy?

There are no known negative side effects of dance therapy. However, dance is a form of exercise. Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have a chronic condition such as arthritis. Your physician can evaluate whether the physical movements of dance therapy might be harmful to your cardiovascular system, joints or muscles.

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