After seven years of treating cancer patients, I have learned that for most patients, more attention is paid to the treatment of the disease itself, through medications like chemotherapy, with little attention paid to exercise and rehabilitation. Yet, the power of healthy living does not only help to complement treatment through traditional medicine. I know that healthy living plays an integral role in post-cancer rehabilitation and recovery of the body’s compromised immune system.
Part of the joy of my practice, is in seeing clients regain their strength and range of motion, while reducing pain. One client in particular, who was in her 50’s and had breast cancer, was under the misconception that her reduced range of motion, pain and heaviness in her arm were just a by-product of her cancer, surgery and recovery. Through word of mouth and support groups, she began to learn about how MLD can help reduce her lymphedema symptoms. I organized an initial intense treatment program to help her reduce pain and swelling. She first described the intensity of her pain as being 6 out of 10 but over time, she reported that her discomfort was down six points to 0 out of 10. Swelling in her arm reduced by about three centimetres in circumference, and she began a local exercise program which helped her to regain energy. My patient proves that MLD as well as exercise helps cancer patients improve! There are many rehab options available to patients to help decrease constant pain and swelling; eliminate limb heaviness; reduce overall fatigue; and improve restricted range of motion caused by surgery, radiation and immobilization. Simple forms or exercise, compression and specialized forms of massage such as manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), can help in the recovery process and improve overall quality of life.
It is not uncommon for people diagnosed with cancer to have fears and misconceptions about exercising during and after their treatments, and during recovery. However, research has shown that exercise is the best defence against the re-occurrence of cancer (Holmes et al, 2005, The Journal of American Medical Association.) For patients with cancer, physical performance has been shown to be the most important clinical factor in predicting survival time.
By consulting with our team of experts at Head To Foot Oasis, we can suggest exercises that are safe, beneficial, and even enjoyable. Interval training helps to get the heart rate to its optimal level and can help survivors regain energy and strength, as well as manage pain after treatments. Exercise can also help rebuild muscle, improve a person’s mobility and help prevent weakening of the bones. Our patients tell us that the exercises we recommend help them to regain control of their muscles, and they experience what it’s like to feel good again.
Lymphedema (swelling) may be a resulting condition of cancer and its treatment. Common indications of lymphedema can be identified in watchstraps or rings that feel tighter; deepened sock lines; or firmness in the limbs or trunk of the affected area. Untreated swelling accumulates in the body/limbs, causing pain and discomfort to progress if left untreated. Although it cannot be completely cured, swelling, heaviness and pain can be treated and effectively managed through a combination of exercise and combined decongestive therapy (CDT). Manual Lymphatic Drainage treatments (MLD) can be compared to a massage; it is a light rhythmic treatment to actually increase the rate at which the lymphatic system flows. Therefore, increasing movement of lymph towards an area of the body that can uptake the excess fluid. In conjunction to the treatment, a compression bandage is also applied to help maintain and improve on the benefits of treatment. Once the desired limb size is achieved, a compression garment is custom made to maintain the outcomes of the treatment. Combined Decongestive Therapy for lymphedema aims at reducing swelling and preventing the fluid from building up again.
Our goal at Head To Foot Oasis is to give you the tools, education and support to maintain your health outcomes. Everyone knows that exercise is the key to healthy living. But as you’ve seen, it’s also the secret to surviving cancer.
Complete your recovery. Come and be seen by one of our highly trained therapists for a free consultation. Our therapists are here to help and will work with you to reduce your swelling, provide a remedial exercise plan and to achieve your goal of getting back your best life.