What is Causing Your Ballroom Dance Pain?

After you’ve studied it for a while, you’ll find that ballroom dancing brings joy and the wonderful feeling of being one with the music.  However, if you’re feeling any discomfort after dancing, here’s a look at some of the possible causes.  When you know what to look for, you’ll be better able to avoid ballroom dance pain.

What’s causing your ballroom dance pain?

Shoulders hurt.

Ballroom dancing is about two people moving together as one.  In order to achieve this, good partnership skills are required.  That is, both partners need to hold their arms up at a comfortable level.  This is called the frame and having a good frame makes it easier to dance together.  Also, a good frame will prevent the partners from hanging on each other.

Using the shoulders to lift the arms when you create a frame is one reason your shoulders hurt after an evening of dancing.  To hold a nice frame, the leader and follower must learn to raise the arms from the muscles underneath the arm as opposed to using the shoulders to lift the arms.

Additionally, ballroom dance pain in the shoulder is often the result of the gentleman’s overleading of underarm turns.  Learning how to painlessly execute these turns is worth the effort because ladies love to dance them. 

Back is sore.

Using poor dance posture causes an aching back.  In fact, by arching the back, you split your body into two pieces, a top, and a bottom.  For this reason, learning to move your body in one piece will feel better and look better.

Good dance posture requires holding the body in one piece.  This is done by lining up your ears over your shoulders, your shoulders over your hips, and the hips over the balls of the feet. 

what causes your ballroom dance pain

Hips can suffer from ballroom dance pain.

Everyone wants to move with rhythm.  In the Rhythm and Latin dances, that means using hip action.  In order to create Latin motion, you will find yourself using muscles you’ve never used before.  Inevitably, you’re gonna say, “This can’t be done!”  I know I did.  But, guess what, you’ll get it done and be proud that you did.  Do yourself a favor by finding a way to practice between lessons.  Gradually, the pain will be gone and in its place will be the pleasure.

Take a look at the hips on these dancers.  Bachata team demonstration.

Knees ache.

Wearing the wrong shoes can cause knee pain.  When you’re dancing, always try to wear your ballroom dance shoes. 

  • They have specially placed heels to help keep your weight over the balls of your feet. 
  • The sole is suede to give just the right amount of slip and grip. 
  • The lady’s shoe will always have a closed-back or a strap in the back to keep the shoe comfortably on the foot.

When dancing in street shoes, keep in mind it’s best to have leather soles.  If you’re wearing athletic shoes (sneakers) the soft rubber can stick on the floor and you can end up twisting your knee and that’s a special kind of ballroom dance pain.  Ouch!

If that happens, most physicians (and dance instructors) will recommend RICE:

  • Rest the joint.
  • Ice the injured area to reduce swelling.
  • Compress the swelling with an elastic bandage.
  • Elevate the injured knee.

One more thing, dancing on a carpet can also result in twisted knees.  Avoid at all costs.

Ankles unsteady.

Unless you specifically spend time strengthening them, there’s a good chance your ankles are on the weaker side.  The ankles play a big part in ballroom dancing.  In the Smooth dances, you’ll use them for the rise and fall in Waltz, the smooth progression in Foxtrot, and the sharp, staccato action in Tango.  In Rhythm dances, you won’t get a nice hip action without using your ankles.

A simple exercise to strengthen your ankles would be to stand with your feet together.  Slowly rise up to the toes on both feet, hold it a second, and slowly roll back down until your heel meets the floor.  Repeat a few times, then do each ankle individually in the same manner.  So that you don’t get wobbly, do your best to keep your weight over the balls of your feet, avoiding rolling back over your heels.  Your heels will touch the floor, but your weight will stay forward.

Feet hurt? The pain will eventually go away.

Yes, your feet are gonna hurt when you take up dancing. Shocker, right? Let’s examine a few things that can cause foot pain from ballroom dancing.

aching feet causes ballroom dance pain
  • Shoes with a thick sole, such as platforms or safety shoes.
  • Slides, thongs, or any shoe without some kind of back or a strap to hold it on the foot.
  • Improper fitting shoes.
  • Too high a heel for a beginner.
  • Worn out shoes that give no support.

“It sounds like learning ballroom dancing is bad for your health.  Maybe I should take up Bingo instead. I don’t think that’ll hurt.”

Heck, no!  Check out this Dance Safari post, “Want to Dance? 3 Big Reasons to Learn Social Dancing“.  Dancing is important for good health.  There are ways to avoid ballroom dance pain, the number one asking a dance professional.  Your dance instructor will be more than happy to guide you.  He or she will explain what to do and what to avoid to stay healthy and injury-free.


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  1. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this marvelous post, Barbara.
    I’ve been quite fortunate regarding body aches and pains. However, I did develop the back problem you spoke about. I now do as you say, and am very pleased to say I am now free of back pain.
    We, my partner Keith and I, have just begun to learn the Latin rhythms. This involves using ‘the hips’ (as that wonderful video clip showed). Not being one to use the hips in this fashion it is a little challenging; but, one I’m enjoying immensely.
    Once again; it has been wonderful to read your very in-depth article.. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for the vote of confidence, Carolyn. I’m happy to hear that your back pain has subsided and, I know you’ll be looking forward to the day your hips feel the same. Keep up the good work.

      I like this quote, “Stifling an urge to dance is bad for your health – it rusts your spirit and your hips.” ~Terri Guillemets.

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