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Dance and Movement Therapy for Cancer Patients

Alternative therapies are great for many kinds of patients, including those struggling with cancer and going through difficult treatments. Mesothelioma patients and other types of cancer patients suffer with a lot of symptoms of the cancer itself and side effects from treatments like chemotherapy and cancer surgery.

An alternative therapy, like dance or movement therapy, can provide a lot of benefits, including emotional and physical relief. There is plenty of evidence that this kind of therapy is useful and effective, but keep in mind that it is not a substitute for treatment. Also be sure to get your doctor’s go ahead before you try any new kind of therapy or physical activity.

What is Dance/Movement Therapy?

Called dance therapy, movement therapy, or dance and movement therapy, this alternative type of therapy is based on the principle that the mind and body are connected. Through the use of dance and specific movements therapists guide patients to improve emotional, social, cognitive, and physical well-being. This kind of therapy is used in mental health treatment, in physical rehabilitation, in medical settings, in nursing homes, and in wellness practices.

A dance therapy session is tailored to the individual’s needs, although it may be used in a group setting as well. The therapist works with a patient to achieve specific goals, such as improving self-esteem, increasing mobility, coping with physical pain, or changing behaviors. Movements and dance are used to express and identify emotions, to communicate, to improve the functioning of the body, and to cope with negative feelings and change behaviors.

Dance Therapy is Effective

Dance and movement therapy has been studied by researchers and determined to be effective in several settings. For example, it has been proven to help people with depression improve their mood, and to help others reduce aggression and anger. It can reduce psychological distress in all types of mental health patients. For patients with Parkinson’s disease, dance therapy has helped improve balance. Patients with dementia saw improvements in memory after participating in dance therapy. Why these benefits are conferred by this type of therapy is not certain, and most studies were small, but the results are clear and positive.

Cancer Patients Benefit from Dance and Movement Therapy

The research into dance therapy and its effectiveness has also shown that there are many benefits for cancer patients using this as a supplement to medical treatment. For patients with breast cancer, for instance, using dance therapy improved overall quality of life. It also helped the patients see improvements in mobility in their shoulder joints.

This and other research has shown that there are important benefits when cancer patients participate in dance therapy led by a trained professional. It can help improve body image and self-esteem, make recovery easier and faster after surgery and other treatments, boost mood and reduce depression and anxiety, relieve physical pain, and increase mobility and flexibility. Dance therapy can also provide important social support for cancer patients when done in a group setting.

Dance Therapy is Physical Activity, Which Benefits Cancer Patients

There may be much more to dance and movement therapy than simply getting physical activity, but at the very least it provides cancer patients with a way to move and get some exercise in a way that is safe and therapeutic. As long as a patient is healthy enough for it, exercise is now recommended for people undergoing cancer treatments.

Exercise is good for cancer patients for similar reasons that it is good for anyone: it promotes healthy weight, improves cardiovascular function, strengthens muscles and bones, and improves overall body condition. For someone with mesothelioma or another type of cancer, these benefits can be extended to include reductions in fatigue, a greater ability to tolerate treatment, improved mood, greater mobility and less pain, and a healthy way to cope with the negative emotions that come from living with cancer: fear, anxiety, and stress.

Risks of Dance and Movement Therapy

Practicing dance and movement therapy is very low risk. The exception to this is if your physical condition does not allow you to move enough to engage in the therapy or if you work with someone who is not a trained professional. In either of these situations you could be injured. To eliminate these risks, talk to your doctor before you try any new kind of therapy. Find out if there are any reasons you should not be trying dance therapy. If you get the go-ahead, make sure you find a therapist who is trained and licensed. Your medical team or medical center may have a dance therapist or may be able to recommend a qualified professional.

In addition to getting approval from your doctor and finding a good professional, it is important to remember that like any alternative therapy, this is not a replacement or substitute for your cancer treatments. Movement and dance can be powerful and may even help you heal, but you still need medical treatment for cancer. Use dance therapy as a beneficial supplement to your treatment and you may start to feel better, get stronger, and enjoy an overall better quality of life.

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