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Doctor, I have chronic pain. Is dancing a good form of exercise for me?

Dancing may reduce pain and has additional benefits that make it a good form of exercise for some people with chronic pain.

What is the evidence?


Dancing vs other forms of exercise/activities/wait list

Study TypeOutcomeQuality of Studies
All studies (quantitative, qualitative)74% (25 out of 36) studies showed reduction in pain immediately after dancinglow quality

What kind of study was this?

This was a systematic review of 34 studies (13 randomized controlled studies) published up to January 2021.

Who? This review included 1,254 participants (age range: 10 to 99 years; 75% women) with chronic pain (pain lasting longer than 3 months) (e.g. fibromyalgia, generalized chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain).

What? The reviewers included studies that compared dancing with other forms of exercise/other activities/wait list or no treatment.



Control Group

Dancing: steps and movements in time to the rhythm and speed of music

Structured Dance: dancing that follows the rules of a specific genre of dance (e.g. Zumba, Square dancing, Belly dance, Brazilian Folk dance)

Dance therapy: unstructured dancing where people are encouraged to create and improvise movements to a piece of music (e.g. Biodanza, Dance Movement Therapy)

All the types of dance interventions were done in a group setting and were led by an instructor. Dancing with a partner was only reported in one study. Average dance session lasted for 70 minutes (range: 30 to 120 minutes) and occurred 2 times per week (range: 1 to 5 times per week) for a minimum of 6 weeks (range: 6 to 40 weeks).

Control: other forms of exercise/stretching/wait list

Some studies had no control group

Why was this research done?

Exercise has been shown to reduce pain in people with chronic pain. Dancing is a form of exercise that has additional physical benefits (e.g. improves balance and muscle-bone function) and social benefits (e.g. improves mood and self-confidence). Reviewers wanted to know if dancing reduces pain in people with chronic pain. They found that 74% of the studies included in the review showed a reduction in pain in people who participated in dancing. Major concerns about this review include the lack of a control group for one-third of the studies and other differences in how the studies were designed and performed that made combining the results of studies unreliable.

This Evidence Summary is based on the following article:

Hickman B, Pourkazemi F, Pebdani RN, et al. Dance for chronic pain conditions: A Systematic Review. Pain Med. 2022 Jun 23. pii: 6613936. doi: 10.1093/pm/pnac092. PubMed

Published: Monday, October 31, 2022

Please note that the information contained herein is not to be interpreted as an alternative to medical advice from a professional healthcare provider. If you have any questions about any medical matter, you should consult your professional healthcare providers, and should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice or discontinue medication based on information provided here.