"A spasm is just, like, the worst pain known to man. It's like an extreme form of paralysis," Arlen told the DWTS cameras in a behind-the-scenes look at the frightening incident, which aired before the couple took the stage.
The pain and fear were particularly potent for Arlen, whose participation in this season of the reality dancing competition is nothing short of a miracle.
When Arlen was 11, she developed two debilitating afflictions that caused inflammation of her spinal cord and prevented her from moving, talking or even eating. She later fell into a vegetative state for four years.
Arlen and Chmerkovskiy took the stage for their sultry Argentine Tango - - set to "Down" by Marian Hill -- and the two pulled off a beautiful routine that was technically flawless. However, many of the judges felt Arlen's performance was somehow lacking commitment to the character of her dance.
"I did feel that you tried very hard to master the intensity of the drama, but you dropped your eyes a lot," Carrie Ann Inaba shared. "Everything beside that was fantastic, so it was only in those moments that I knew you didn't feel comfortable."
"I didn't really get transported to Argentina at times, but it was a very good job, well done to you," Len Goodman said.
"You looked good, great shapes, great lifts, good lines, now you have to act the part," Bruno Tonioli added. "It's all about maintaining the character throughout the dance."
After the feedback, host Tom Bergeron asked Arlen to reflect on her painful spasm and the impact it had on her performance.
"When you went into the spasm, it triggered a lot of frightening memories from earlier in your life when you [were] paralyzed. How much of a fear of it happening again in this dance may have colored what they're talking about -- the ability to really fully commit to acting the role?" Bergeron asked.
"I definitely didn't feel as strong as I felt in dress before the spasm," Arlen admitted, "but overcoming that, taking some much-needed rest, getting out of that scared mindset, really helped me go out there.
"It wasn't as good as it could have been, but given the circumstances I'm very happy with it," she added.
For their efforts, the pair earned a score of 24 out of 30. With only five other couples left in the competition, the total put them in second-to-last place after the night's first round of dances.
In the trio round, Arlen and Chmerkovskiy teamed up with past DWTS Mirrorball trophy winner and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez for a fun trio jive set to "Magic" by B.o.B featuring Rivers Cuomo.
While the energetic routine was fun and playful, Arlen got similar criticism from the judges. She told Bergeron after the dance, "I'm definitely still hurting, but I'm still here. As much as my legs aren't as sharp as I'd like them to be, they're moving and that's all that matters."
The trio earned another 24 out of 30 for a combined total of 48 out of 60 for the night.