Balanced is improved and fall risk is reduced among cancer patients with peripheral neuropathy who participated in Argentine tango dancing as a form of therapy.1

Peripheral neuropathy is experienced by up to 70% of patients with cancer who are treated with chemotherapy. It manifests as a loss of sensation in the hands, fingers, feet, and toes, and can continue to occur even 6 months after treatment for one-third of patients. Long-term neuropathy in the feet and toes can be especially problematic because it affects a person’s balance and gait, putting them at higher risk of falls in daily activities.

“That’s a big deal because many more people are surviving cancer. Dealing with the issues that impact a person’s quality of life after cancer is extremely important,” said Lise Worthen-Chaudhari, MFA, MS, CCRC, a physical rehabilitation specialist who is a faculty member of The Ohio State University Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

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“As a dancer, I study the art of movement and as a biomechanist and rehabilitation scientist I study the math and the science of movement. We thought that it would be a powerful combination to put all those together to try to help cancer survivors.”

This pilot study was funded by Pelotonia, a grassroots cycling event based in Columbus, Ohio, that has raised more than $106 million for cancer research efforts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

To evaluate the effect of Argentine tango practice on the biomechanical predictors of fall risk among cancer survivors, the researchers designed a dance intervention course that involved 20 sessions of adapted Argentine tango. Patients participated in 1-hour sessions twice a week for 10 weeks.

Researchers measured patients’ standing postural sway (eyes closed) with a computer-aided force platform at the beginning of the dance intervention series and at completion of the 10 weeks of instruction. Patients were also asked to report satisfaction with the intervention.

“So many patients tell us that it is difficult to stay committed to physical therapy because it is hard and feels like work. We’ve shown that Argentine tango has measurable effects on balance, but our patients report really enjoying dance as therapy. It is a fun, social way to do the necessary work and our initial data shows it has some positive impact for restoring balance,” said Pelotonia fellow and pre-med/dance major Mimi Lamantia, who taught the Argentine tango to a class of approximately 30 cancer survivors for this study.

Initial data from this study is scheduled to be presented at the 2016 annual meeting of American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine.

“We show that after just 5 weeks of Argentine tango, medial and lateral sway decreased by 56% indicating that this is a promising balance intervention for cancer survivors experiencing impaired balance post treatment,” said Lamantia.


1. Argentine tango ‘therapy’ helps restore balance for cancer patients with neuropathy [news release]. EurekAlert! web site. Published July 5, 2016. Accessed July 12, 2016.