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The Role of Physiotherapy in Cancer Recovery

Cancer is among the leading causes of illness worldwide. Everyone knows someone affected by this frightening, debilitating and sometimes terminal disease. Many cancer patients undergoing treatment are left feeling weak and exhausted. Simply getting up in the morning, keeping up with children or grandchildren and remaining social can often seem like herculean tasks, much less the greater physical challenges of keeping the body active through exercise. The truth is that maintaining muscle activity is essential while on the road to recovery.  If you or someone you care about have been diagnosed with cancer or is currently undergoing treatment, you should know the importance and value of including physiotherapy as part of the cancer rehabilitation plan. Physiotherapy can help you with overall pain management, counter act the de-conditioning from prolonged periods of inactivity, residual drug and chemotherapy induced nerve damage and various other health issues that come with the diagnosis. Finding a rehabilitation clinic that understands the very special needs of cancer patients can provide the patient with an improved health and recovery outlook.

Cancer treatments do affect individuals very differently which is why it is important to find a physiotherapist who is able to create a personalized treatment plan targeting the patient’s individual needs.

Common Cancer Treatment Related Problems Alleviated with Physiotherapy

These are some common cancer or treatment related problems that are often reduced or alleviated with physiotherapy:

  • Pain after cancer treatments can be intense and debilitating. Physiotherapy treatment can positively and gently work with your soft tissues through hands on tissue release, modalities, stretching and strengthening. Physiotherapy can reduce the intensity and duration of the pain. Your physiotherapist can also advise you of some pain management strategies that can be incorporated into your self care routine at home. Anything that will help lessen the pain associated with cancer treatment will have a positive impact on your overall sense of wellbeing.
  • Cardiovascular performance can be greatly affected during and after the cancer treatment period. An experienced physiotherapist and the other health professionals at your rehabilitation clinic can help you regain endurance and will monitor your cardiovascular status. Physiotherapists are health professionals who are trained to see the signs of fatigue and stress and will educate you on how to recognize these signs and will develop safe and achievable goals for cardiovascular fitness.
  • Neuropathy is a very common side effect of cancer treatment. It can manifest itself as tingling, numbness and pain and is caused by changes in nerve conduction.  Speak to your Physiotherapist about how treatment can help with neuropathy.
  • Fatigue during and after cancer treatment can be severe and incapacitating. There is an abundance of medical research showing that moderate, supervised exercise and stretching can significantly reduce the feelings of fatigue and malaise. An experienced physiotherapist at your rehabilitation clinic understands how to get you moving towards your more energized and happier self in a manner that is gentle and safe.
  • Lymphadema is the accumulation of lymphatic fluid at the tissue creating swelling throughout the body and in particular the limbs.  The lymph glands are often targeted in cancer treatment and lymphadema is a common feature of treatment.  Physiotherapists can help minimize the effects of lymphadema and promote improved mobility and motion.


During the critical period of cancer recovery, it is vitally important to find a rehabilitation clinic that conveniently meets all your wellness needs under the same roof. A multidisciplinary clinic has physiotherapy, massage therapy, chiropractic, acupuncture and chiropody under the same roof so you can easily access all services in the most convenient environment.

Maintaining healthy lifestyle habits is very important during and post cancer treatment:

  • A balanced and healthydiet is always important but even more so when your body is under duress. An abundance of fruit and vegetables as well as incorporating omega-3 fatty acids, clean proteins and good carbohydrates are what your recovering body needs.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco as both are known to increase disease risk.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. You may have lost or gained weight as a result of the illness or treatment.  It is important to get back to your normal weight as soon as possible. A consultation with a dietician may be just what you need to set you back on the right path.
  • The benefits of exercise cannot be stressed enough. An exercise program developed by a physiotherapist working in a multi-disciplinary rehabilitation clinic will get you moving in the safest, gentlest way possible while helping you to achieve your recovery goals.
  • Drink lots of water!    Hydration is important at every stage of life. Water is essential for your muscle health. Ask your physiotherapist how much water you should be drinking after each physiotherapy session at your rehabilitation clinic. 
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