Oncology Rehabilitation: Therapies
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Motion for Life
If you feel like you don’t have enough energy to get through the day, the last thing you may want to do is exercise. However, any amount of activity—no matter how small—can help you regain lost strength, and may also help you better tolerate your cancer treatments.
The rehabilitation team helps teach you ways to overcome physical deficits and cancer-related fatigue. Through the Motion for Life Program, Eckhardt and her team help improve your quality of life by providing exercise regimes and energy conservation strategies.
The program consists of a patient-specific physical regimen that incorporates therapeutic activities to help you maintain the energy you need to participate in activities that are important to you. Sometimes your goals might be as simple as bathing, dressing yourself, or having enough energy to do something you have been missing, like playing with your children.
“Important contributions from the rehabilitation team are fitness through exercise, energy conservation strategies, identifying valued activities, and helping patients perform them,” says Eckhardt.
As part of the Motion for Life Program, your rehabilitation therapist will try to treat cancer-related fatigue by helping you continue activity at the right level, and at the right time, so you still have energy to do the things you enjoy. They will monitor your level of fatigue using a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing ‘full of energy’ and 10 being ‘totally exhausted.’
Eastern’s physical therapists aim to reduce your cancer pain, improve your mobility and restore your physical function in everyday activities. They team up with our occupational therapists to deliver individualized exercise programs that combine range-of-motion training with other light activities, like resistance training.
The goal is to improve your energy level, quality of life and independence by improving your ability to be active and comfortable. Depending on your condition, you may focus on flexibility, strength, endurance, coordination and/or balance.
Your physical therapist will recommend stretching to relieve joint stiffness and pain, improve posture, prevent injuries, promote physical and mental relaxation, and improve your overall mobility and range-of-motion.
Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
The Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion helps you identify the intensity of activity that will improve your fitness and, at the same time, give you a boost in energy. By using either words or numbers on a scale, you rate how hard you are working when doing something physical. Since the condition of each person is unique and varies from day to day, the Borg system is able to keep exercise and activity at the right level.
Eastern’s occupational therapists assist in performing Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as grooming, dressing, eating, etc. They will help you identify and rate your performance in your daily activities, and prioritize these activities based on their importance to you.
Your occupational therapist will study you as you interact with your day-to-day surroundings, assess physical mobility, and teach you how to address, and adapt to, any physical limitations. This may include help with showering, dressing, eating, and toileting.
Speech and language pathology
Eastern’s speech and language pathologists provide a dual role in the department. They teach speech therapy to help you speech production, vocal production, and language needs. They also help resolve any swallowing problems (dysphagia) that may limit your ability to eat.
Your speech and language pathologist will collaborate with your nutritionist to thicken or puree food to a tolerable consistency. They also work closely with the surgical oncology and radiation oncology departments to support head and neck cancer patients.
Lymphedema prevention & treatment
Many breast cancer patients develop lymphedema after surgery, a condition in which excess fluid collects in tissue and causes swelling. In lymphedema, the removal of lymph nodes from the axilla (underarm) changes the way the lymph fluid flows within that side of the upper body, making it more difficult for fluid in the arm to circulate to other parts of the body.
The rehabilitation therapists team up with the surgical oncology team to provide an individualized Lymphedema Management Program. This program combines gentle range-of-motion exercises and other techniques to reduce the swelling associated with this condition. Your rehabilitation therapist also provides education about techniques you can use in your day-to-day life to stimulate your lymphatic system and help prevent lymphedema.
Eastern's massage therapists provide massage therapy for patients and caregivers. Massage therapies, include reflexology, myofacial therapy and scar tissue management, can help to promote relaxation, reduce pain and improve quality of life.
This method aims to improve peripheral neuropathy, a condition that causes pain, numbness, tingling, or loss of reflexes in different parts of the body. The technique involves an electronic stimulation to the area of peripheral neuropathy, such as the hands or feet, to increase tactile sensory and awareness.
Using headphones and special hand and foot sensors, interactive metronome is a simple series of computer-generated “sounds” and feedback to measure a rhythmic beat and response to the millisecond. The goal is to improve processing abilities that affect attention, motor planning and sequencing.