Dance therapy helps older adults move better, SLU researchers find

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A remedy for hip and knee pain may be moving to the beat, according to a Saint Louis University study.

Researchers from SLU's School of Nursing and department of physical therapy organized a 12-week study that involved 34 residents of a senior citizen apartment complex who reported pain or stiffness in their knees or hips, mainly due to arthritis. Most participants were women, with an average age of 80 years old.

The researchers separated the senior residents into two groups — one group that danced for 45 minutes up to two times a week and another group that did not receive any kind of dance therapy. On average, those in the dance group attended 21 out of 24 sessions.

Results showed that participants in the dance group were able to walk faster and reported less pain. In addition, residents in the dance group took 39% less pain medication while participants in the non-dance group took 21% more medication.

Although this was a “small feasibility study,” the dance therapy sessions became a regular program after the study was finished, lead author Jean Krampe, Ph.D., RN, CPHQ, assistant professor of SLU's School of Nursing, told McKnight's.

“We plan to continue to research the benefit of therapeutic dance,” Krampe said. “The baby boomer generation was raised on music and dance. They can enjoy this therapeutic dance method for the rest of their lives.”

Findings were published online in May in Geriatric Nursing.

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