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Let Physiotherapy Help You Move Beyond Cancer

Cancer rehabilitation is a growing field in medicine due to the improvement in cancer survival rates. Many people are beating cancer due to advancements in medical science and the role of physiotherapy has played a contributing part.

We all know cancer treatment is extremely tiring leaving people exhausted, fatigued, weak and with a compromised immune system. Simple daily activities like getting out of the bed can be a huge and daunting task! There is a wide range of side effects following chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and hormone therapy including:

  • fatigue
  • lymphedema
  • reduced quality of life
  • depression
  • sarcopenia (increase in body fat and decrease in muscle mass)
  • increased risk of heart disease
  • bone loss
  • reduce range of movement
  • pelvic floor issues
  • Increased incidence of falls due to peripheral neuropathy and deconditioning.

These effects, combined with general deconditioning due to a sedentary lifestyle and the ageing process, create a perfect storm of loss of condition during cancer treatment.

So how can physiotherapy help?

Pre-habilitation is now recognized as an important phase for cancer patients whereby they prepare for the arduous treatment protocol ahead by getting a grip on the whole process. It makes treatment more bearable and effective, the recovery speedier, and allows more optimal use of the available support and resources on offer. Collectively it can alter the experience of cancer treatment in a positive way, even influencing the eventual outcome. The benefits of pre-rehabilitation include increasing cardiovascular fitness, improving nutritional status, enhancing the quality of life, reducing the length of hospitals stays and optimizing overall recovery.

Pre-rehabilitation offers people with cancer and their caregivers three main benefits:

  • Personal empowerment: fostering a sense of control and purpose in people, facilitating preparation for treatment and improving quality of life.
  • Physical and psychological resilience: an opportunity to improve physiological function and psychological wellbeing, thereby improving resilience to the effects of cancer treatments, enhancing the quality of recovery and enabling them to live life to the full before, during and after treatment. It can also reduce post-treatment complications and improve some aspects of cognitive function.
  • Long-term health: an opportunity to reflect on the role of healthy lifestyle practices following a cancer diagnosis, promote positive health behavior change and thereby impact long term health. It also enables people with cancer to prepare for treatment through promoting healthy behaviors and through needs-based prescribing of exercise, nutrition and psychological interventions. Pre-rehabilitation is part of a continuum to rehabilitation.

The aim of pre-rehabilitation is to empower patients to maximize resilience to treatment and improve long-term health.

The role of the physiotherapist in cancer management is extensive and comprises of:

  • respiratory muscle training, aerobic exercise, and/or resistance training to prevent all types of postoperative complications after intra-abdominal operations
  • both pre and post-surgery is associated with improved cardiopulmonary exercise capacity, increased muscle strength and reduced fatigue, post-operative complications and hospital length of stay
  • the available evidence suggests that pre-surgical exercise through aerobic, resistance or pelvic floor training prescribed either on their own or in combination can be beneficial for prostate, lung and colorectal cancer patients.
  • pre-surgical exercise protocols involving either aerobic and/or resistance training have resulted in functional and clinical benefits that are critically important. Pre-surgical exercise interventions have been found to not only improve aerobic fitness and muscle strength in studies of patients with cancers of the abdominal area, but also reduce the rate and duration of continence in prostatectomy patients.
  • research suggests that resistance exercise increases muscle strength, maintains lean body mass, and reduces body fat both before and after treatment protocols have been administered. It is an effective countermeasure to the adverse effects on the musculoskeletal system because it is safe and feasible both prior to and after treatment has commenced.

An effective exercise programme has three components:

  • aerobic workouts that pump up your heart and breathing rate eg. brisk walking (outdoors or on a treadmill), jogging, swimming, or bicycling.
  • strength training to tone and build muscles eg. lifting weights or working with a machine circuit or resistance bands.
  • stretching to keep muscles and joints limber.

The goal should be at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week or more, but be cautious because if you overdo it you may become discouraged and stop exercising altogether. On the other hand, if you were a regular at the gym before cancer, you may have to lower the intensity of workouts for a while. It is important your exercise programs are devised, supervised and progressed by our physiotherapists to ensure the optimal outcome.

So to summarize, exercise has been found in many clinical studies to have a positive effect on the side effects of cancer treatment, however, the type of exercise and the physical activity benefits vary with each treatment technique so your physiotherapist is best able to advise you on the best programme for your specific condition and situation. Resistance, cardiovascular, flexibility, balance, functional, range of movement, and targeted exercises such as those for the pelvic floor, each have their own physical and psychological benefits.

At ProHealth Asia, our patients can be reassured by the recent research outcomes, and enjoy the feeling of being in control and empowered through exercise. Our patients at ProHealth Asia Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Centre feel safe, confident and well-informed to “Move beyond Cancer.”

For more information call us on 01142120200 or book an appointment here

Author by Neha Prakasham, Oct 9, 2019,


Come to our Physiotherapy clinic in Niti Bagh, Delhi for a chat with one of our expert physiotherapist to plan the right Physiotherapy treatment for you to get rid of pain in no time.