How To: Belly Dance After a Total Hip Replacement
For a belly dancer, hearing that you need a new hip is like a violinist hearing they need new fingers - scary, depressing, and seemingly a death sentence for your career. But it doesn’t have to be the end of shimmies! Follow us through the 7 stages of grief that will take you from depression to successful recovery and finish with a return to belly dance.
As dancers, we are dependent on our bodies to follow our minds in movement. It’s why we practice choreography in our head - the name of the dance implies stomach but a real belly dancer knows the dance isn’t located inside just one body part. We rely on mental, emotional, and physical elements in order to express parts of ourselves that normally remain hidden. One element out of place and it can be a disaster on stage.
For an artist, dancer, musician, athlete, or anyone who relies on their body to meet such demands, the fear of our body’s failure can be overwhelming at times. But often, our bodies do fail, and our dependency on our body can often come with a greater risk to break down.
Read Anthea’s story for one woman’s journey back to belly dance after a total hip replacement.
When our bodies fail us, our initial reaction follows the first few stages of the seven stages of guilt:
1. Shock & Denial
Those X-Rays can’t be right!
2. Pain & Guilt
Not only am I in pain, but I feel like I could have avoided this. If only I’d taken better care of my body!
3. Anger & Bargaining
Maybe the pain will go away. I can probably fix this myself, can’t I?
4. Depression, Reflection & Loneliness
How will I ever be able to belly dance if I can’t use my hips? I wish there were others like me.
Luckily, for every downside there is an up, and it all begins with some research.
Hip Replacement Facts:
The most common reason for hip replacement is osteoarthritis in the hip joint.
Healthy, active people often have very good results after hip replacement surgery. Usually people do not spend more than 3 to 5 days in the hospital after hip replacement surgery.
To be completely well takes about 3 to 6 months.
The most common problem soon after hip replacement surgery is hip dislocation.
Risks of problems after hip replacement surgery are much lower than they used to be.
Exercise can reduce joint pain and stiffness after THR.
As Anthea learned, there are lots of dancers who are going through or have gone through hip replacement surgeries, including many professional ballerinas. Though reports of ballerinas tends to come from companies outside of the most prestigious houses, dancers believe this is due to omission rather than lack of occurrence.
If at first the announcement that you need a new hip is overwhelming, rest assured it does get better. While the earlier four stages of grief are negative, the following three center around acceptance and hope:
5. The Upward Turn
I’ve just learned that successful surgeries often result in being able to dance better than before the hip replacement, plus there are many other dancers who have also gone through a total hip replacement.
6. Reconstruction & Working Through
Woohoo! I’m done with the surgery, following instructions from my doctor, and starting to feel better. I’m now even able to do some basic belly dance movements while seated.
7. Acceptance & Hope
I’m dancing again, I’m pain free, and I’m ready to be a dancer, albeit with some limitations, but this is better than before.
When all else fails, follow this advice from dancers who have made the successful recovery out of a total hip replacement back into the dance of their passion:
Look for a doctor who has a lot of experience in this surgery, then everything else should fall into place. - Anthea
Consult with the operating surgeon to get personalized range of motion instructions, you may be able to do more than you expected due to actions taken on the surgical table. - Dancerhips.com
Look for a physical therapist who has experience working with dancers. They will know better than anyone else how to create a plan to return to dance. - Dancerhips.com
Physical therapy should be planned at the same time surgery is planned; because it starts the day after surgery. - Anthea
Don’t try to do too much or go too fast in the first 3 months. A return to surgery needs to be avoided. You still have a lifetime of dance in front of you, don’t rush into something that could leave you more disabled than before. - Dancerhips.com
Post-op patients should absolutely not bend more than 90%, as is recommended. No one wants a dislocation! That restriction only lasts for several weeks. - Anthea