Tri Rehab Physical Therapy Dearborn and Canton Michigan

How PT Can Help Following a Diagnosis of Cancer

Physical therapists are trained and educated to understand all of your health conditions, including a cancer diagnosis. Your physical therapist will work with you to develop a specialized treatment program to address your specific needs and goals.

The American Cancer Society recommends people undergoing cancer treatment, and cancer survivors, perform consistent physical exercise to decrease fatigue, and improve the ability to perform normal daily activities. Studies show that exercise can improve an individual’s chances of surviving cancer. Physical therapists can design individualized exercise and treatment programs to reduce or prevent many cancer-related problems. Physical therapists help people diagnosed with cancer before and after surgery. Before surgery, they may help individuals by addressing strength and endurance, so that they can enter into surgery as strong as possible. After surgery, they can help with the healing of the incision site, improve circulation, reduce pain, and minimize scarring. They evaluate individuals for any physical therapy treatment needs, and, by designing individualized treatment programs, help them recover and heal faster than they would on their own.

Your physical therapist may work with you to improve your:

Comfort and Well-being. Cancer and cancer treatments can cause symptoms such as pain, burning sensations, numbness, tingling (neuropathy), cramps, spasms, and weakness. Your physical therapist may apply hands-on techniques (manual therapy) or technologies like electrical stimulation to help decrease your pain and alleviate your symptoms. The physical therapist may teach you gentle exercises or techniques to perform at home to aid your recovery. All of these options may reduce or eliminate the need for opioid pain medication.

Aerobic Capacity. Cancer or cancer treatment may have decreased your ability to process oxygen (aerobic capacity), causing fatigue. Research shows that aerobic exercise, such as walking on a treadmill for at least 20 minutes 3 times per week, may help improve aerobic capacity, reduce fatigue, and optimize healing. Your physical therapist can assess your aerobic capacity and determine the best aerobic activities for you.

  1. Bone Density. Lack of activity and certain cancer treatments can cause weakening of your bones, which could lead to bone fractures. Certain types of exercise can prevent bone loss and maintain bone strength. Your physical therapist can teach you safe and effective exercises to help steadily build your bone strength.
  2. Lymphedema and Swelling. Certain cancer treatments can result in lymphedema (swelling in the arms or legs) or other types of swelling. Your physical therapist may be trained and certified to use several methods to reduce, control, and prevent lymphedema and swelling, such as specialized gentle massage, special movements and exercises, and application of compressive garments such as arm sleeves, gloves, and leg stockings.
  3. Surgical Incisions. Your physical therapist can help you care for any surgical incisions and sutured areas, by checking for infection. They also help prevent some kinds of scarring and skin tightness as the suture line heals. Your physical therapist can use very gentle massage or certain technologies to keep the skin as soft and pliable as possible.
  4. Walking. Your physical therapist will help improve your ability to walk using techniques such as strengthening exercises, walking training, and balance activities. If you have nerve damage (neuropathy), your physical therapist may provide bracing and other techniques to make it easier or safer for you to walk. Your physical therapist also may recommend using an assistive device, such as a walker or cane.
  5. Motion/Flexibility/Strength. Your physical therapist will choose specific activities and treatments to help restore normal movement in any stiff joints and tight or weak muscles. Your physical therapist might begin by performing the movements and stretches for you, and then teach you how to perform them on your own at home.
  6. Home Program. Your physical therapist will teach you strengthening, stretching, and pain reduction exercises to perform at home. These exercises will be designed specifically for your needs.
  7. Daily Activities. Your physical therapist will discuss activity goals with you and use them to design your treatment program. Cancer survivors usually increase their physical activity gradually; your treatment program will help you reach your goals in the safest, fastest, and most effective way possible.
  8. Mood. Exercise helps elevate mood and reduce depression in everyone, including cancer patients and survivors. A diagnosis of cancer, and cancer treatment, can be stressful and cause mood changes in anyone. Proper exercise, individualized for each person by a physical therapist, can help reduce stress and improve mood.

Information provided by the American Physical Therapy Association and can be accessed at https://www.choosept.com/symptomsconditionsdetail/physical-therapy-guide-to-cancer

Mary Guyette, DPT

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