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The Role of Physiotherapy in Cancer Recovery

The Role of Physiotherapy in Cancer Recovery

21Nov

Physiotherapy is generally not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of undergoing cancer treatment, instead surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy are the more common thoughts. And rightly so as these treatments are focused around the management and hopeful elimination of the cancer. However, undergoing cancer treatment is gruelling and debilitating for the body. An otherwise simple task such as getting out of bed in the morning can be a huge struggle for someone undergoing treatment, never mind doing a normal days exercise. In addition, pain management, nerve damage, lymphedema, deconditioning and incontinence are some of the health issues that accompany the diagnosis. And this is why physiotherapy is important for recovering patents. Getting the body back to functioning at the prior level of independence is the goal and physio will help patients achieve that.

Physio Treatment for Cancer Recovery

There are a number of various physiotherapy treatments available to patients, depending on the type of challenges and side effects they may be facing post treatment:

  • Pain Management is a constant battle for patients, even post treatment. However the good news is that there are many options available outside the traditional medication. Strategies include soft tissue mobilisation, therapeutic massage, therapeutic stretching and strengthening.
  • Peripheral Neuropathy is a term used to describe damaged nerves located outside the brain and spinal cord. It is a very common side effect of chemotherapy, radiation or the cancer itself. In most cases it results in muscle weakness and sensory impairment such as numbness/tingling of the area. Physiotherapy exercises will aim to maintain mobility by improving muscle power and joint flexibility.
  • Lymphedema describes the chronic swelling of the arms or legs that occurs due to the build-up of lymph fluid under the skin. This failure of the lymphatic system can occur as a result of trauma (e.g. following a surgery or radiotherapy), reduced mobility or the blockage of the lymph vessels due to a tumour. A physiotherapist can help treat this condition through manual drainage, a specialised exercise plan, or through fitting the patient with a compression garment.
  • Genitourinary issues such as incontinence and sexual dysfunction can be common place for men who have undergone treatment for prostate cancer, and women who have undergone treatment for ovarian or bladder cancer. A skilled physiotherapist an address these issues and can help rebuild strength of the pelvic floor in order to improve urinary continence and reduce pain related to sexual function.
  • Deconditioning of some degree affects all cancer patients either during or post treatment due to their inability to maintain their normal level of physical activity. Physical inactivity affects the musculoskeletal, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. A skilled physical therapist can help overcome these issues through:
  1. Strength and endurance training education, along with a personalised exercise program prescribed to suit the individual’s needs.
  2. Education on deep breathing exercises and aerobic exercise will help improve respiratory function. Also correcting posture may benefit respiratory function.
  3. Education and monitoring of cardiovascular endurance training. A physio can teach specific mobility recommendations, exercises that can be done in bed or seated if mobility is an issue.

Naturally as each individual’s treatment course varies, so to will their road to recovery and hence why it is important to have an individualised rehabilitation plan. Here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, we have a team of chartered physiotherapists who are dedicated to helping patients in their cancer recovery. If you, or anyone you know are struggling to function at the level you were prior to treatment, do not hesitate to get in touch with us on 01-6606582, or alternatively you can book a consultation with us online here. 

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