Loolwa Khazzoom, the founder of Dancing with Pain, experienced the healing powers of dance first hand. Thirteen years ago a head on car crash left her with severe back pain.
"I went from bad to worse in the medical system," said Khazzoom. "I could barely walk and was severely depressed."
She could only move her arms, but she visualized herself dancing in her mind. It worked. She decided to combine meditation, music and movement therapy with visual guided imagery.
"Athletes use this a lot. They will visualize going through their routine and doing it perfectly before they actually execute it," said Khazzoom.
A University of Chicago study reveals golfers who visualize their swings activate the same parts of their brain that they use when they actually do it. The conclusion: we are what we think.
Some experts believe the brain can be reprogrammed to break the cycle of pain.
Lupus patient Jennie Floyd also has degenerative disc disease. At her first class she already felt a difference.
"There were movements today that I haven't been able to do in years that I was able to do," said Floyd.
Dancing with Pain is a trademarked method. Teachers claim that it is 96 percent effective in reducing or eliminating pain. The next step is to document how well this therapy works through clinical studies.
Khazzoom and her collaborators are applying for grants from the National Institutes of Health. In the meantime, her goal is to empower pain patients with the self healing tool of dance.
"If you practice every day you're going to begin to experience pleasure instead of pain," said Khazzoom.
She adds that many of her students say her Dancing with Pain program also helps them deal with emotional pain like depression. The classes cost $15.