Belly Dancer with Back Pain Told to Strengthen Abs

by Stephanie

My first memory of back pain was when I was in my mid- teens. I was in a play and one scene was rehearsed again and again forcing me to stand for a couple of hours. I remember my back getting more and more sore and it hurt for a few days after.

After that back pain was rare until I was in my mid-twenties by which time I was blaming it on a badly treated ankle damage incident and had forgotten about the earlier incidents.

Over a few years, I saw three osteopaths, two chiropractors and a physiotherapist, all of whom gave me a quick treatment, said everything seemed fine and to just come back if I had any more pain.

The physiotherapist suggested that maybe my gluteal muscles were a little too tight. The osteopath kept giving me ab-strengthening exercises, but here is the thing: I am a belly dancer.

My abs are pretty strong already from all the dance, yoga and tai-chi training I have done. My abs are constantly engaged to keep me in a pelvis-tucked posture anyway.

A few years later, I went on a dance teacher training course where we covered a lot more physiology and I was able to chat to people with a range of physio-type backgrounds. It was there that I learned about the psoas muscle and everything started to make sense: the reason I was getting the type of back pain typical of an untucked the pelvis, and the reason I couldn't do certain stretches that open the front of the hips, etc.

I started trying to self-treat with basic lunge stretches but didn't feel much improvement. A friend who is a Pilates instructor showed me some deep stretches that she claimed would hurt at the time, but would produce results. I started doing these and did see a bit of an improvement in flexibility, but it would make my lower back hurt for a couple of days.

Originally I would do the stretches the same day as another exercise class as this seemed to work out any tension and stop the pain. But lately that hasn't been working and everything just hurts (not severely, but it is unpleasant, and the past week or two my back stiffens up if I am standing stationary for more than ten minutes). I don't know whether that is a sign I should stop, or whether working through the tension will work.

Having read some articles I now think the iliacus is involved too as I get a tight feeling (not quite pain, but uncomfortable) in the crease between my hip and my thigh, and if I am lying down and need to cough I need to bend my knees, otherwise I feel like a pulled muscle around my lower abs and hips.

I'm going to sign up for the newsletter now, but any other advice is welcome. Unfortunately I can't afford to visit a therapist at the moment. :-(

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Stephen O'Dwyer, cnmt

Neuromuscular Therapist & Pain Relief Researcher

Stephen O'Dwyer, CNMT


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