Back in the day, I was an über athletic chick: an avid cyclist, swimmer, and jogger, a women’s self-defense instructor, and most importantly, a dance fiend. On any given night of the week, you could catch me at the local clubs, euphorically dancing the night away.

That all changed after a hit & run, head-on car collision in 1997 — when I joined the ranks of millions of Americans (over half the population) living with chronic pain. Turning to the health care system, seeking pain relief, I soon found myself spinning through a hell common to those with my condition:

I was misdiagnosed, refused tests, dismissed as a hypochondriac, physically injured, emotionally traumatized, and financially drained by the very practitioners who were supposed to help me heal.

As a result, I ended up not only in pain, but also in despair. By 2004, I had sunk so low that contemplating suicide became as much a part of my morning routine as drinking a cup of coffee.

That year, a friend dragged me out of my urban apartment – which I had become afraid to leave – and took me to a retreat in the middle of the desert.

On the first night, I cried bitterly while watching an electrifying dance troupe perform in the white desert sand. Barely able to walk, I knew I had forever lost the ability to move so passionately and vigorously.

After the dancers and audience members left, however, as the music blared over the loudspeakers and tears streamed down my face, I raised my arms – the only body part not in pain – and began moving them to the music. And so I began to dance again.

Having re-conceptualized dance as something other than leaps, twirls, and fancy footwork, I continued dancing at my edge for the duration of the retreat.

To my astonishment, I found that edge moving out farther and farther — until the fourth day of the retreat, when I was magically able to tear up the dance floor as in years past. Tears, this time of rapture and gratitude, streamed down my cheeks once again.

Since that time, I have explored the magic and spirit of dance as a powerful and innovative tool for healing chronic pain. I have used it to help heal myself, and I have developed it as a methodology to help heal other individuals suffering from pain.

Beyond the physical aspect, I have used Dancing with Pain® as a metaphor for creating a dynamic emotional and spiritual relationship to pain – so that patients are no longer victims of depression, anxiety, and fear, but rather powerful dance partners with them.

Lastly, I have used the Dancing with Pain® model as an educational tool in guiding health care practitioners – so that they understand how to work effectively and caringly with chronic pain patients.

Please visit my website for more information about Dancing with Pain.

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