By Janette Valezuela

Unfortunately, it is the price and sacrifice we pay for dancing.

Whether salsa dancing has just become an art form that you implement every single day or if it is just for fun, I have compiled some stories, experiences and a list of helpful hints for you and your dance partner to protect yourselves from injury and your overall health while salsa dancing.

My Story...
In August of 1995, I was vacationing on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. My friend Luz and I decided to rent a car and drive to "El Yunque," a national rainforest. The car was registered under Luz's name and she was the sole legal driver ( I was not of legal driving age to drive a rental car). Well, about half way to the forest Luz started falling asleep ( the hangovers and all the partying finally began to affect us ).

I asked her, "Do you want me to drive?"

Before she even replied "yes!", the car was already pulled to the side of the road.

'Well,' I thought, 'I cannot risk our lives by getting into an accident due to Luz falling asleep at the wheel. I know that this is illegal butt, you got to do what you got to do!'

I began to drive up all the swerving hills through the beautiful, lush, green forest enjoying the scenery as Luz merrily snored away. In all of my midst, I had completely neglected the small, tiny, minor detail that I was driving an automatic car. As we were traveling uphill and elevating through every curve, I decided to shift to second gear. As I was about to shift from D gear to second gear, I accidentally slammed on the breaks with my left foot thinking I was pressing down on the clutch of my own 1991 red Ford Escort back home.

We came to a complete halt in the middle of the two way road! I frantically tried to change the gear back to D so the car could proceed forward, but it was too late. The car behind us had no chance to break at all. All of a sudden, BAMM!

At this moment all that could flash in my mind was: This was the amount of the car rental insurance that we finally decided to purchase at the rental car dealer after debating the issue over and over again..

Then after the initial feeling of the security insurance protection was over, it was time to feel completely morbid. We would have been better off if Luz had driven - conscious or unconscious.

Luz immediately bolted right out of the car like a bat out of hell(finally she woke up!) And as for myself, I couldn't and wouldn't get out the car! I sat there and felt a combination of shock, stupidity and then fear.

Luz told me, "Janette, get out of the car."

The car that rear ended us or shall I simply state, the car that I helped smash, was filled with four young Puerto Rican guys that didn't look too happy.

"Janette, get out of the car."

I thought, 'They're going to shoot us! Or worse. They're going to hijack us here in the middle of nowhere!


So, at that moment, I finally decided to get out of the car. I couldn't even look at them straight in the eyes. The poor guy's hood was smashed. Nothing happened to our car and no one was hurt.

What was so amazing about this whole episode and I know that this will be hard to believe but was that they didn't get mad. We told them that we had car insurance but that according to everyone Luz was the driver. They said no problem. It was obvious to them that we were complete tourists. They were so cool about it and they were also nice. One of them even replied, " Don't worry, we're not in LA."


We were so shaken up that we couldn't drive. One of the guys even drove our rental car to the police station to fill out the police report! Can you believe that?

All the way to the police station Luz kept whining and complaining that this was going on her DMV record and that her car insurance was going to go up and on and on and on....

The Puerto Rican and I kept telling her that everything was going to be fine and that 'NO' this wouldn't go on her DMV record and that although Puerto Rico is an official US colony that items such as DMV records don't transfer to the mainland.

But she was restless and still unconvinced! She was ready to go to any lawyer and pay $50 bucks just so the lawyer could tell her, "it won't go on your DMV record!"

We finally arrived at the police station and again the Puerto Rican reassured Luz about the DMV records issue, "Don't worry. They don't even have computers here."

The poor guy whose car I smashed was too upset to drive and he just stood silent the whole time. We filled out all the paper work and walked back out to the parking lot and took pictures.

Again, Luz asked, "Are you sure this won't go on my DMV record?"

The Puerto Rican replied, " Look. Trust me. You can be on 'America's Most Wanted' and they still wouldn't get you here."

Finally! She was convinced! OKAY!!

So guess what happened next? We all went to the rain forest together! They told us not to let this incident affect our vacation. Only in Puerto Rico!

So what is the purpose of this story you may ask?

About three months after the accident in November of 1995, I started getting this pain in my left shoulder and neck area. I proceeded throughout the holiday season and found that I had this pinching slight pain every night. I told myself that it was just stress and that it would go away after the holiday season was over. In December I went to Mexico for Christmas and my pain went away. I thought to myself, 'I was right. It was only stress. I just needed a little relaxing vacation. I'm cured.'

January, 1996- My pain came back. I bared it until August 1996.

Let me tell you what happened to me during these months. I was in too much pain to exercise. I started eating more. I gained weight. If anyone hit my left shoulder while dancing or standing still, I was done for the rest of the night. It was hard to get out of bed sometimes and many times I would cry myself to sleep. Wearing uncomfortable shoes was painful. I will spare you all the rest of the gory details. But anyway, what finally did it was one night I was driving home from teaching a class. When I left the place I was already feeling pain. I know this will maybe sound funny but as I was driving I had to take off my bra because it was cutting off my circulation and and the bra strap was absolutely killing me! The pain was so bad and the pressure was increasing so much that I thought I was going to pass out! I started losing my consciousness and I thought I wasn't going to make it home. It was one of the worst moments of my life. I had never felt so helpless. Needless to say I barely made it home.

I felt like I was handicapped. I literally couldn't do anything normally anymore! I felt as though my health was shot and I was only 24 years old!

I finally decided to admit to my stubborn self that I needed treatment because I could no longer function physically. I made an appointment with the best chiropractor in town. I had to literally drag myself in the there, and I mean this literally! I wasn't walking anymore. I was in a state of semi-paralysis. The chiropractor took my X-rays. We looked at my X-rays together and I was in shock!

My neck and shoulder was totally *[email protected]#* up! My neck was completely reversed and curved in the opposite and wrong direction. The circulation through my neck was so blocked off that I had very little energy flow to my shoulder which was causing all the pain. The doctor told me that if I would have continued on like this that I never would have been able to dance again. So thus, I began my slow and painful treatment back to recovery.

* My first mistake was that I didn't get myself checked right away. If you are involved in any accident, get yourself checked regardless if you were hurt or not! I didn't feel anything initially after the accident. But, this didn't mean that I wasn't injured. I was but I didn't feel it right away. Get yourself X-rayed by a chiropractor.

* When the pain arrives, DON'T IGNORE IT! If you suddenly start feeling a pain that you can't explain try to relate it back to an accident that you had. Symptoms can arise months and years later.

* Take care of the problem right away! Don't wait! The reason I am sharing my story with you is so you don't pay the same price I did. Don't think it will go away. It won't. It will only get worse. The longer you wait the harder and more painful and more expensive the treatment will be.

* When injured cut back on your salsa dancing a little bit. I know that this it hard. It was difficult for me too, but going out and getting hit and elbowed on my shoulder kept prolonging my injury. Then I would toss and turn all night long in bed with pain.

* Avoid drugs. A medical doctor will only prescribe you drugs and will treat the symptom and not the cause. The body reacts best to holistic treatment such as acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractor adjustments and herbs. Heavy drug treatment and surgery should only be taken under last resort and extreme physical conditions.

If you must go out dancing, here's what to do...

* Go to a club where you can make a reservation in advance for a table. That way when you need to sit down and rest you can.

* Avoid clubs that are over-crowded and have small dance floors. This is very dangerous for an injured person. You will get hit! Trust me. And worst of all you won't enjoy yourself because you will be holding back worrying if you will get hit or not.

* Do not ever dance on concrete or carpet!! This is so bad for you. Actually, it is bad for injured and perfectly healthy people. Dancing on carpet is very bad for the knees. Dancing on concrete is very bad for the lower back, the spine, the feet and neck. Avoid this as much as possible. The best is the good old-fashioned, smooth, hard-wooden floor. Beware of slippery floors and sticky floors. Beware of an area on the dance floor that has spilled liquids all over the place.

* Try to dance as far away from people as possible. Whether it be in the far corner, or on the outskirts of the dance floor. I would always try to do this. You will decrease your chances of getting hit by 25%. For a perfectly healthy person getting hit can mean nothing. But, us injured people feel it ten times worse!

* Before you go out dancing, stretch that area that is injured. Stretch out your ankles.

*Protect your feet! Wear comfortable shoes. No this is not a sales pitch! This is the true and genuine reason why I distribute Dance Shoes. There was a time in my life that I could only wear Dance Shoes and tennis shoes. I couldn't wear anything else. I had to throw a lot of my other shoes in the trash because they would hurt me so bad. And these shoes were from places like Bullock's and they were not cheap! I sell these shoes to people because of the comfort and relief I feel of the "extra-cushion." I sell these shoes because I really believe in them. We cannot take care of every foot problem for we are not a medical-product company;however, I have had many clients tell me that these shoes are great support for their injuries. Read Edie's article "Are your feet killing you!" When you're injured wear lower heels to take the pressure of your lower back. Bring two pairs of dancing shoes to the club. When you feel tired in one of them put your 'alternative' shoes on. When your feet get tired. Sit down and rest and stretch your ankles in a circular motion or get on a staircase with your soles on the edge of the staircase and stretch your feet up and down. This brings the circulation back into your legs and feet. You will feel a world of difference! I do!

* Get plenty of rest. Many people told me last year that I looked very tired. An injury along with the pain takes so much energy from you. I remember waking up some mornings and feeling like I just got run over by a truck. My injury always made me exhausted. I also did two major shows, a television show, dance classes and three competitions. I don't know how I did it! Sleep, rest, drink lots of fluids. This year I have really concentrated on resting my body. I feel a world of difference on my health. In fact, I don't hear people telling me I look tired anymore. That is because I am taking care of myself and I feel great!

* Listen to your body. We are creatures of self-abuse. It is amazing that our bodies are begging us to do something and our minds don't listen.

When you are tired - REST!

When you are hungry - EAT!

When you are sleepy - SLEEP!

When you are thirsty - DRINK!

When your are sluggish - TAKE VITAMINS!

We all know this but we don't listen. Listen to your body. Take care of it and it will take care of you!

*This is what I do for increased energy. I take wheatgrass juice. It is a very growing trend here in Southern California. They call it the miracle juice. It is filled with many minerals and does wonders for the body. It helps with soar throats, keeps hair from graying, helps allergies and is excellent for overall health. I also take Colloidal Minerals that come in bottles. Just take a shot of day and you will experience great stamina.

*What to do for pain - Take Shark Cartilage. Yes, it is actually the cartilage from a shark. Sharks are one of the many animals that don't get cancer. These pills can be found at any health food store. It is great for strength, to fight pain, and best of all it helps prevent cancer.

Salsa dancing during cold weather...
* I hate to say this, but, mom was right. Always take your sweater! Cold weather is an atrocious condition for injured people. I certainly felt more aching and pain during cold weather. Always protect yourselves with comfortable, covered clothing. Ladies, wear your nylons. I personally cannot stand wearing nylons but when I must do it for my health, I do.

* Never walk outside of a nightclub while you are sweating! If you are sweating, sit down, rest, put your sweater or jacket on and wait until you have stopped sweating. You are asking to get sick. Injured people are more prone to getting sick because our health is weaker.

* Stay away from loud, smoke-infested clubs. If you are at a club that is loud and smoke-infested, keep your conversations at an absolute minimum. You are asking to lose your voice! Have you ever been at a loud club trying to have a nice conversation and the conversation ends up like this:


"OH YEAH, UH-HUH!!!!!!"


Then you wonder why you have no voice the following day.,

My advice for you is to just "Shut up and Dance." Also, If you lose your voice a great treatment is 'warming echinacea.' It is made of vegetarian kosher, ginger root and healthy herbs. You can purchase the 'kids' version because the adult version tastes awful. Or better yet take a shot of wheatgrass and gargle it in your mouth and it will go away!

If you have the flu, a cold or a fever. Do yourself and the whole salsa community a favor and STAY HOME! I can't tell you how many cases I hear every winter about the flu going around. The problem is that people go out while they are sick and infect other people with their germs. They don't stop and realize that salsa is a body-contact activity (HELLO!) and you will make other people sick. Have consideration for other people. Sacrifice a couple of nights and stay home and rest. Then when your feet get back on the dance floor you will feel stronger, healthier and more in the mood to salsa because you were away for a little bit!

Here is what I have to say about chiropractor treatment:


Let me tell you that I would not be standing up today at all. I would not have been able to sit at this computer and type this article. I would not have been able to compete in the "Sportsman's Lodge" contest and win the contest. I would not have been able to do anything that makes me happy!

Some of you may have had bad experiences with past chiropractors. This I can understand. However, I found the best chiropractor on the planet. There is no one that I trust more and I refuse to use anyone else.

His name is Dr. Stephen Morita:
His practice is: BackBay Chiropractors
He is located in the city of Costa Mesa
Tel: (714) 631-0200

Yes! I drive from Los Angeles County to Orange County for my adjustments.
Why? Because my health is worth it! He can answer any question you may have. He is very patient and will treat you well.

He will take care of slipped disks, herneated disks, sprains, any neck and shoulder problems and much more. He has saved many people from having to go through surgery and has cured over thousands of cases. He is an amazing doctor!

1996 was a very difficult year for me. I want to personally thank Dr. Stephen Morita for giving me life again. I have learned through this experience to never again take my health for granted. I am so grateful that I can enjoy dancing again with no pain. I am so grateful that I am able to once again do simple things such as lift a box, raise my shoulder and move my neck freely, effortlessly and gracefully. I am happy to be healthy and feel normal again after two years. The therapy wasn't easy but it was necessary despite my tears. I hope my article has helped you in any way to really appreciate your health. For without good health, the spirit becomes damaged, the soul becomes lost and the state of mind weakens. Keep your spirits high, your soul nourished and your body and mind strong.