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The Role Of Physiotherapy In Cancer Recovery

Physiotherapist examining patients knee in clinic

If you or someone you know is dealing with a cancer diagnosis, you will no doubt be aware of how many different treatment options there are to keep track of. From medication and dietary changes to chemotherapy and surgery, there is a plethora of different routes one can take to address the diagnosis. While it may not be something we think of when discussing cancer, physiotherapy can be used to help people maintain a high-quality of life and stay healthy.

There are many different ways a person can decide to tackle a cancer diagnosis, but all of them will leave the person feeling tired and more vulnerable to other medical complications. Physiotherapy helps people maintain their physical abilities, which will help keep them strong and energised, all of which plays a key role in happiness and mental health.

How Physiotherapy Can Help

One of the primary ways that physiotherapy can help is to address cancer-related fatigue, one of the most common side effects for those undergoing treatment. A physiotherapist can assess a patient and pinpoint exactly what issues they are facing. Addressing these issues could involve strength training, to compensate for any weakening muscles or bones; aerobic training, to address energy issues that relate to pacing and breathlessness; cardiovascular & endurance training; or kinesiology, the science of movement, which can help patients learn how to overcome limitations and use the physical abilities they do have in the most effective way.

Pain management is another important area that physiotherapists can help almost all patients with. There are many ways that cancer can lead to physical pain. One is the location of the cancer itself. Another is the fact that reduced mobility can result in stiffness in the joints or muscles. Peripheral neuropathy is nerve dysfunction that causes pain as a result of damaged nerves. Physiotherapy can address issues like these by tackling them head on with treatments like massages or mobilisation therapy, as well by teaching patients how to avoid triggering pain.

Another side-effect of some cancer treatments is lymphedema, the swelling of body parts due to fluid retention. This usually occurs in the limbs, or the body part affected by cancer. This fluid is retained if the lymphatic system is damaged, which can occur as a result of scarring due to surgery or radiation therapy, infection, or the cancer itself. Physiotherapists can address this by draining the fluid themselves, teaching the patient certain exercises, and using special bandaging techniques.

While physiotherapy is not used to address the cancer itself, it can be an extremely effective way of helping patients maintain their quality of life. This is not only essential for their mental health, but it empowers them by giving them the energy and independence to undertake other methods of dealing with the cancer. While the amount of possible routes to deal with cancer can sometimes seem overwhelming, physiotherapy can held patients build a foundation of strength to pursue as many of these options as possible, enabling them to pursue all possible routes for beating the disease.

Genitourinary complications: For men undergoing treatment for prostate cancer and women undergoing treatment for bladder or ovarian cancer, incontinence, and sexual dysfunction are common. A skilled physical therapist can help to rebuild the strength of the pelvic floor in order to improve urinary continence and reduce pain related to sexual function.

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Thomas Bloem
Thomas Bloem

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