Americans could benefit by being a little more “Brazilian” and dancing more.    It is proven to help prevent and ease lower back pain.

Samba, massage, the plumbers sink, and ode to exercise in the Brazilian way.

“Don’t you just love that the Brazilians dance their way up to the front door and on their way out as they leave?”

I remember my American friend saying that when I was on the cusp of dating one of the hot swivel hipped natives of Brazil.  The Brazilian joy of life is infectious when you spend time with them, and I carry a deep love of their culture and learned their language as a result of it.

As a couple we would dance all the time, sometimes in the middle of the day for no reason at all other than for the fact that a really good song came on the radio.  Even their language has a musical quality to it and that prompted Cervantes (the famous Spanish author) to name Portuguese the “lyrical language”.

What does this have to do with the plumbers sink?  In the tale of the plumber’s sink, everyone’s plumbing is repaired, but not the plumber’s own hot mess of pipes.  The correlation to a massage therapist of course is that sometimes bodyworkers take care of everyone else and not themselves.    In any case, I’ve never been the plumber neglecting the sink.  In two decades of practice I am injury free.  I credit this to the fact that I get massages very regularly and have managed to avoid the repetitive motion injuries common to my industry. 

I was however the plumber’s sink.  My lower back was hurting about a year after my relationship with the dancing Brazilian ended (update: we got back together!), and I was wrong in thinking that massage was enough.  I didn’t make the correlation to the fact that the increase in dancing I had in my life while we were together is actually what helped me be pain free.  It took me a while to put “two and two together”.

Instead of focusing on strengthening my core, which I already knew was probably needed, I  avoided doing the tough stuff.  I did a typically “human” move and looked for solutions outside of my self.  I behaved like someone who had none of my education and experience.   Someone suggested an inversion table.   Hanging upside down only made me queasy.  So, I kept shopping for solutions and closets filled with contraptions were the result.  

When in doubt:  Google.

Spa Rosalia Del Mare - Hips Don't Lie, Brazilian DancersWhile web surfing for core exercise suggestions, I found the book “8 Steps to a Pain Free Back” by Esther Gokhale. The author points out that third world countries have no lower back pain.  She correlates the extremely low incidence of back surgery with the prevalence of dance, and happens to focus specifically on Samba from Brazil.

Here in the U.S. where we dance far less, lower back surgery and pain are rampant.  (Do you really need me to link to statistics here?)

Samba and Brazil are only one example of dancing cultures that are by comparison free of lower back surgery.   Writing this article I thought of a recent trip my sister had taken to the Dominican Republic.  I asked her: “What did you think?” She said: “I liked it, but at the same time it was odd.  All day very few people seemed to be working.  Women would sit outside in the front of their houses socializing with curlers in their hair and the place was relatively quiet, but all night long people would be dancing and music was everywhere.”

Why do I have this feeling that lower back surgery rates in the Dominican Republic are really low?

Reading the Gokhale method, I recalled that during my two years with the dancing Brazilian I had no lower back tension.  I also remembered a stint of belly dancing lessons, and how great my back felt when I was taking those classes.  I knew it was time to get into action.

As luck would have it, my friend Chelli invited me to join her for Zumba. Zumba is not from Brazil, it originated in Columbia, and is based more heavily on cumbia than samba, but it does a very good job of keeping the spine mobile.   The basic concepts that Esther Gokhale recommended in her book are incorporated into Zumba.   I decided to try it.  It’s fun and now I recommend it to anyone experiencing lower back tension.   Zumba in combination with the fact that I get massage regularly seem to have cured me of pain.  I am hoping  this article inspires you to do the same and have as much success as I did.

If you are in San Diego, I invite you come join us at Zumba Party Fitness… 

…and have some fun.  You can check out their website here. 

If you’d rather wiggle your hips in the privacy of your own home or would like to try Brazilian dance, this is a great samba lesson dvd.

Have fun and get your hips moving! Read our article about body posture and lower back pain here.

For now, as they say in Brazil: Beijo Tchau (Kiss Goodbye)

The video below is Elza Soares, Brazil’s answer to Tina Turner, singing and dancing a few samba moves to the music of Jorge Aragao.

Are you a dancer?  Do you keep it moving and have less back pain?  Tell us about it in the comments below.

 IF you have back pain schedule an appointment for bodywork!