COMPASSIONATE CANCER REHABILITATION
Cancer treatment can be devastating to the mind, body, and spirit. Though medical interventions address the disease, they may come with side effects causing pain, discomfort, fatigue, and other changes that diminish both ability and energy. Physical therapy can help.
Our treatments alleviate the issues brought on by surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. These include orthopedic complications, compromised posture, and neuropathy. Cancer patients are often heartened when they learn the power of physical therapy to heal and revitalize.
Physical therapists are the “quality-of-life” professionals – we work in partnership with patients to restore them to their previous or best functional levels. Skilled and compassionate cancer rehabilitation can improve a patient’s strength and range of motion, ease the pain, reduce nausea and fatigue, and loosen scar tightness and promote tissue healing.
Our treatment plans are tailored to each patient, and in part depend on the medication intervention and a patient’s response to it:
For patients planning surgical intervention
Before surgery, our physical therapy practice works with you to improve strength and range of motion to set you up for the best healing possible post-surgery. We help minimize post-surgical pain and reduce the risk of developing lymphedema. Furthermore, in the immediate post-op period, we help facilitate wound healing and scar management for the best cosmetic result. We educate patients about special undergarments and compression products that reduce swelling and improve comfort and appearance, and we can measure you and provide fittings for these helpful products.
For patients planning chemotherapy and/or radiation
At times, chemotherapy can affect your equilibrium. Working with a physical therapist during chemo can help reduce nausea, improve balance, and reduce fatigue. Some of our modalities – including reflexology, Reiki, and nutritional counseling – combined with a customized physical therapy plan can holistically address strength, balance, joint pain, and postural awareness.
Whether minor or major surgery, with or without lymph node dissection, a patient may note tightness which emanates from the surgical site. Scar tissue is the body’s way of healing from surgery or trauma. It can result in very dense tissue (just under the incision, at the drain sites and/or harvest sites) which is painful and which can restrict the range of motion (ROM) of the limb and sometimes, the lymphatic flow as well and may even affect your posture. For example, after breast cancer treatment, sometimes a “frozen shoulder” (one that is painfully restricted and which results in a markedly reduced level of function) may result from scar tissue in the surgical site or muscle spasm in the neck, chest or upper shoulder areas due to compensatory movements. PT’s can successfully restore, at a minimum, functional ROM and strength, if not return you to your previous or optimal level of shoulder function.
Tightness from surgery (scar tissue) and radiation fibrosis can also rob people of their good posture. Tightening of the scar tissue either from surgery and/or radiation may pull at these surgical and radiated sites, compromising your posture. Correcting your posture is difficult. Manual Physical Therapy followed by proper stretches and posture education can reverse this process and helps to correct postural compromises. Proper body mechanics, proper exercise and function of the body start with proper biomechanical alignment or good posture. Good posture also enhances lymphatic flow, easier breathing (rib expansion) and even proper digestion. Compromised posture can be an additional risk for developing osteoporosis and after cancer treatment, this may already be an additional risk due to steroid use and/or hormonal therapies.
Neuropathy and Balance
A painful numbness is sometimes noted by patients at the surgical sites (original surgical site and/or harvest/reconstruction sites) and drain sites. It can also be experienced as a complication from chemotherapy, particularly in the hands and feet. Again, manual physical therapy is often very successful at restoring sensation and at the least, alleviates the painful numbness or hyperesthesia. After a mastectomy, this is called Post Mastectomy Pain Syndrome (PMPS) and can create significant issues of increased sensitivity. Wearing bras or certain clothing can be extremely uncomfortable or even downright painful.