If you're a cancer patient, you may be experiencing pain, decreased mobility and fatigue. In addition to anti-cancer medications, your doctor or oncologist may prescribe physical therapy. In such a case, you'll most likely see a licensed physical therapist that is experienced in helping patients with cancer. The goal set by your physical therapist is to help you overcome your physical limitations, improve your mobility and relieve your pain and discomfort through various exercises and techniques.
How Can Physical Therapy Improve Your Quality of Life as You Deal With Cancer?
If you're being treated with chemotherapy, you may experience side effects that can impede your ability to perform everyday functions. Even if you aren't receiving radiation or chemo treatments, you may be dealing with a host of unpleasant symptoms associated with the disease. A licensed physical therapist will demonstrate techniques that may help relieve some of these symptoms.
What Will Your Physical Therapy Involve?
Upon your first visit with a physical therapist, you will be given an evaluation and assessment. This will help your therapist devise a specialized program for you. You may be asked questions pertaining to your symptoms or physical limitations. The physical therapist may also test your range of motion by asking you to extend your arms, raise your legs or walk.
Therapy may include any or all of the following:
Stretching Exercises: Gentle stretching may help improve your mobility. You may also perform the stretching at your leisure while at home.
Use of equipment: Working with hand weights, balance balls or resistance bands may help improve your muscle strength and endurance, as well as improve your balance.
Massage: If your physical therapist is trained in massage therapy, you may find relief from this technique. As you deal with your cancer, therapeutic massage may promote relaxation and improve your sleep. It may also help ease your aches and pains.
Electrotherapy pain relief: Your physical therapist may use equipment referred to as a TENS machine. TENS is the abbreviation for Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation. This device helps stimulate nerve endings and improve circulation, via the use of electrodes that attach to your skin. You should not use this device without the approval from your physician, as placing the electrodes in the vicinity of a tumor may not be advisable.
Heat applications: The application of a heat compress for 30-40 minutes during physical therapy may help relieve pain.
Precautions to Take
If you experience pain or discomfort during your physical therapy, inform your therapist. The technique or exercise may need to be adjusted or modified for you. Also, do not stop taking your prescribed medications during your course of physical therapy. Continue to follow your doctor's orders as part of your cancer care.