Cancer Conquerors: The Benefits of Physiotherapy for Cancer Patients

A cancer diagnosis can be a life-altering event, impacting not only physical health but also emotional and psychological well-being.  While the primary focus is on medical treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, the importance of holistic care, including physiotherapy, should not be underestimated.  Physiotherapy plays a crucial role in supporting cancer patients throughout their journey, aiding in recovery, improving quality of life, and helping individuals regain their strength and confidence as they work to conquer this challenging disease.

Physical Recovery and Rehabilitation

The primary goal of physiotherapy for cancer patients is to address and alleviate the physical challenges that often arise during and after cancer treatments.  Surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can lead to physical issues, including muscle weakness, fatigue, pain, and reduced mobility.  Physiotherapists work closely with patients to prescribe personalised rehabilitation programmes that address these specific challenges, helping individuals regain their physical capabilities and maintain their independence.

Reducing Fatigue and Weakness

Cancer-related fatigue is one of the most common side effects experienced by cancer patients.  It can be debilitating, making daily activities a struggle.  Physiotherapists use targeted exercises to improve strength and stamina, to help individuals regain their energy levels.  The below are some strategies that may be prescribed.

  • Aerobic Exercise: Low-impact aerobic exercises such as walking, stationary cycling, or swimming can help improve cardiovascular fitness and reduce fatigue.  Exercise prescription is tailored to an individual’s fitness level and gradually increased as their tolerance improves.
  • Strength Training: Resistance exercises using light weights or resistance bands can improve muscle strength and stamina.  Targeting major muscle groups, especially the legs and core, can be particularly effective.
  • Flexibility and Range of Motion Exercises: Stretching exercises help maintain or improve joint flexibility, which can reduce the sensation of stiffness and enhance mobility.  Range of motion exercises may include gentle stretching of the arms, legs, and neck.
  • Breathing Exercises: Controlled breathing exercises, such as diaphragmatic breathing, can help improve oxygen exchange and reduce shortness of breath, which is often associated with fatigue and anxiety.
  • Balance and Coordination Exercises: Cancer and its treatments can affect balance and coordination.  Balance exercises can help prevent falls and enhance mobility, while coordination exercises can improve motor skills.
  • Mind-Body Techniques: Mindfulness and relaxation techniques can be used to manage stress and anxiety, which often contribute to cancer-related fatigue.   
  • Energy Conservation Strategies: Physiotherapists also educate patients on energy conservation techniques.  These include pacing activities, planning rest periods, and prioritizing tasks to avoid overexertion.
  • Functional Exercises: Functional exercises aim to improve an individual’s ability to perform daily activities.  These exercises are designed to be relevant to the patient’s specific needs and goals.
  • Hydration and Nutrition: Proper hydration and balanced nutrition are crucial for managing fatigue.  Physiotherapists may provide guidance on maintaining a healthy diet to support energy levels.

Managing Pain and Discomfort

Pain is another frequent companion for cancer patients, especially following surgery, or radiation therapy. Physiotherapy interventions, such as manual therapy, soft tissue techniques, and gentle exercises, can help reduce pain and alleviate discomfort.  These approaches not only provide physical relief but can also contribute to improved mental well-being by offering respite from chronic discomfort.

Restoring Range of Motion and Mobility

The manifestations of disease or side effect of treatments can lead to reduced range of motion and difficulty with daily activities.  Physiotherapists work on improving flexibility and restoring mobility in patients who may have limitations in their joints, muscles, or overall physical function.  This not only aids in physical recovery but also enhances an individual’s quality of life by allowing them to perform daily tasks more easily.

Addressing Lymphoedema

Physiotherapists play a crucial role in helping cancer patients manage lymphoedema, a condition characterized by swelling due to impaired lymphatic drainage.  Lymphoedema can occur as a side effect of cancer treatment, particularly following surgeries and radiation therapy that involve the removal of lymph nodes or damage to the lymphatic system.  Physiotherapists can provide valuable assistance in the management of lymphedema through a combination of techniques and strategies:

  • Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD): This gentle, hands-on technique involves the use of light, rhythmic movements to encourage the flow of lymphatic fluid and reduce swelling.  Physiotherapists with specialised training in MLD can perform this therapy, or they may teach patients self-MLD techniques to use at home.
  • Compression Therapy: Physiotherapists can recommend and provide guidance on the use of compression garments, such as compression sleeves, stockings, or bandages.  These garments help maintain pressure on the affected area, preventing the buildup of lymphatic fluid and facilitating movement and give comfort and support.
  • Exercise and Movement: Specific exercises and movements prescribed by a physiotherapist can help stimulate lymphatic flow and reduce the risk of lymphoedema.  These exercises focus on gentle, controlled muscle contraction to encourage fluid movement.  Elevation of limbs can also assist with lymph drainage.
  • Skin Care: Proper skincare is essential for individuals with lymphoedema . Physiotherapists can educate patients on the importance of keeping the skin well-moisturised and the avoidance of trauma or localised pressure that may cause skin breaks.
  • Education: Educating patients about lymphoedema, its causes, and strategies for self-management is a critical aspect of physiotherapy. Patients are taught to recognise early signs of swelling and instructed on when to seek professional help.
  • Breathing Exercises: For patients with upper body lymphoedema (e.g., following breast cancer treatment), physiotherapists can teach breathing exercises to reduce the risk of chest tightness and discomfort.
  • Lifestyle Advice: Physiotherapists offer advice on lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk of lymphoedema, including recommendations on weight management, and minimizing activities that might exacerbate the condition such as prolonged standing.
  • Individualised Care: Each patient’s situation is unique, and physiotherapists tailor their approach to the specific needs and goals of the individual.  This ensures that the care provided is personalised and effective.
  • Monitoring and Progress Assessment: Physiotherapists work with patients to monitor the progression of lymphoedema and adjust treatment strategies as needed to achieve optimal results.
  • Psychological Support: Coping with lymphoedema can be emotionally challenging, and physiotherapists offer emotional support and encouragement to help patients manage the psychological aspects of their condition.

The journey through cancer treatment can be emotionally taxing.  Our physiotherapists at the Home Physio Group can not only help with physical relief but also help with the strength and confidence needed to face the emotional challenges that come with conquering cancer.  This emotional support can significantly impact mental well-being, fostering resilience and a positive outlook.

For more information, please contact us on 0330 335 1016 or alternatively please fill out our contact sheet and we will get back to you.

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Why choose Home Physio Group?

We are a dedicated team of Chartered Physiotherapists working exclusively in your home and providing the highest level of care. We recognise the importance of knowing that you are in safe hands and being looked after. With this is mind, our client management team are here to assist you every step of the way and will answer any questions you may have. We are passionate about helping you to reach your goals, relieve your pain, and improve your mobility.

The benefits of using our service include:

  • All our physiotherapists are hand-picked professionals with years of experience
  • We are registered with the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) and Health & Care Professions Council (HCPC). All our physiotherapists are checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) 
  • We will arrange visits in your own home (or care home or place of work) at a convenient time to you
  • We work at speed and do not have a waiting list
  • We offer daytime, evening and weekend appointments
  • Our team work closely with the country’s leading consultants and specialists in their field
  • You will always have the same physiotherapist visiting you at home
  • You can have as many visits as you require
  • Our fixed pricing structure can be provided in writing so that you can consider it in your own time
  • We believe there is no “one size fits all” approach to care. Your personalised programme and treatment strategy will be unique to you