Belly dancing with chronic pain: Andalee’s story

written by Andalee on June 4, 2016 in Healthy for life with no comments
Belly Dancing with Chronic Pain: Andalee

Photo by Karl Ulrich

Back in April we heard from Tracy about her experience with fibromyalgia and how that has affected her ability to belly dance. I, too, suffer from fibromyalgia and have had it for quite sometime, although it took me forever to get a diagnosis.

Officially, on my doctor’s bills it is classified as “unspecified myositis/myalgia” and I also suffer from hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome. My former doctor (I’m living in France now, so I no longer am able to see her) is the type who loves alternative medicine (she’s a real MD) and her theory is that fibromyalgia is the whole body manifestation of hypothyroidism. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I know for me that getting on hypothyroid meds (naturally desicated thyroid hormones only) was one of the best things to ever happen to me health-wise.

But like Tracy’s post, this article holds no advice. Everyone needs to find the treatment that works best for them. However, I would like to share my story as well.

I’ve struggled with fatigue my whole life. One doctor I went to told me that I wasn’t sick, I just had a constitutional need for more sleep than other people. I remember having to take naps after school even in middle school and high school. The pain didn’t start setting in until about 2007 or 2008, about the same time my polycystic ovarian syndrome started kicking in as well. My guess is that something went haywire in my endocrine system, but who knows what the trigger was. My mom also suffers from fibro and both of my parents have thyroid problems. Endocrine disorders are super common in my family.

My biggest hurdles when it comes to belly dance are fatigue, foot pain and over doing it. I also deal with tight muscles, tenderness and stabbing pains in my soft tissues. It seems as if I rarely have the energy to dance and when I do dance I have to pace myself. If I do too much, I will not be able to get out of bed the next day. I will feel completely drained and have pain that can only be described as “run over by a truck.”

However, despite these limitations, I have been lucky to have been able to pursue amazing belly dance opportunities like going to Aziza’s Dream Camp and attending workshops near and far. I just wear my special arch support socks, dance shoes and take many, many breaks. I’ve gotten over being embarrassed by having to sit out at workshops.

I’m lucky to be where I am today, because I know fibromyalgia generally gets worse with time. I am not completely symptom free, but I am miles from where I was just a couple of years ago. I hope that if you are suffering from chronic pain, you are able to find a doctor who will listen to you and take your symptoms seriously. It took me 5 doctors before I found one who was ready to treat me, even if that meant pursuing nontraditional approaches.

Do you have a story to tell about your chronic pain? We’d love to hear from you! Share your comments below, or write your own story and have it published on the site. Contact me here!


About Andalee

Andalee is the founder of Belly Dance at Any Size. She is an Oriental dancer and instructor from Durham, NC, now based in Montpellier, France. She has been dancing since 2005 and teaching since 2008. Her mission is to promote Oriental Dance (a.k.a. belly dance) as a respected and valid performance art.