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Program Applications ~ Basic Principles ~ Goals ~ Precautions

ROM Dance Program


The ROM Dance is a gentle mind/body exercise and relaxation program designed especially for people with pain and other physical conditions which may limit movement. "ROM" stands for Range-Of-Motion exercises recommended by doctors and therapists to help keep the joints flexible. The ROM Dance incorporates these movements with basic mind/body principles from tai chi, and is accompanied by quiet music and a verse that evokes light, warmth and well being.

The ROM Dance can be practiced both sitting and standing, and there is a version designed specifically for wheelchair use. It is easy to learn, and can be practiced at home or with a group. Health care practitioners have recommended the ROM Dance to people of all ages for over 20 years.

If you are an individual 18 or 85, recovering from injury or with a chronic condition, you may find the ROM Dance to be both uplifting and gently invigorating. If you are a caregiver or health care professional, you may find this unique approach to gentle exercise ideal for your patients and clients.

Tai Chi trains the practitioner to be calm while alert, both strong and flexible, and to relax in the midst of stress. These elements are applied to the ROM Dance, teaching the participant to relax despite pain, to move gently and slowly in order to maintain the ability to move, and to develop sensitivity to and awareness of subtle changes in the body. Through regular practice, this slow, fluid dance can enhance mental focus, body awareness and imagination.

Program Elements

The ROM Dance, which takes about seven minutes to complete, can be performed both sitting and standing. It incorporates movement in all ranges for the large joints, and includes a special hand exercise routine. The "dance" is accompanied by quiet music and a poem which evokes light, warmth, well being, and personal relationship (see the ROM Dance Gallery). Some excerpts are as follows: "I am sitting — at a quiet beach — I scoop the warm water over my head covering me with a warm waterfall — I gather the sun's warmth over my shoulders and it feels good — someone comes to my beach who will be my friend — we know that somehow in some way — we will be together."Because the movements of ROM Dance are gentle and take only a few minutes a day to perform, nearly everyone — including individuals in wheelchairs — can do them. It may improve flexibility and mobility while promoting a general sense of relaxation, in a safe, slow and gentle manner. The ROM Dance won't change the disease process, but it may help reduce pain and limitations.

Program Development

In 1981, Diane Harlowe, MS, OTR, FAOTA, occupational therapist and researcher, and Tricia Yu, MA, health educator and T'ai-Chi instructor, created the ROM Dance at St. Mary's Hospital Medical Center in Madison, Wisconsin. Patients had complained that their exercises were boring and monotonous. Harlowe and Yu designed this unique routine to encourage them to keep moving everyday. ROM Dance pilot study, efficacy research and instructional media were funded in part by grants from the Arthritis Foundation.

Program Applications

The ROM Dance Program includes instruction in both exercise and relaxation. The exercise is designed to be practiced as a daily routine to help maintain joint flexibility. The relaxation and pain management training provides participants with strategies for relaxing both during periods of rest and when feeling stressed in the middle of daily activities.

The ROM Dance is based on movements usually recommended for Rheumatoid Arthritis.

It has also been applied in the following areas:

Originally designed as 8-week community health education program, it is also taught by physical and occupational therapists, nurses, dance and recreation therapists and Tai-Chi instructors in the following settings:

The ROM Dance program can help people with a variety of conditions maintain flexibility and cope with stress and pain. It can also be used as the warm up and cool down phases of more extensive exercise programs.

Basic Principles

Basic Principles of the ROM Dance reflect the mind/body principles of Tai-Chi and are used for focus during daily practice. They include:


Precautions and Contraindications