Physical Therapy for Cancer Recovery

Cancer Patient and OncologistIf you are undergoing cancer treatment like chemotherapy or radiation or have had surgery, you may experience pain, inflammation, numbness and tingling in your nerve endings.

Our physical therapists can help you stay active with exercises that can minimize the side effects. We understand that it is difficult to continue with daily activities — not to mention exercise. However, the physical therapist can show you how to adapt your usual activities and exercises and find a way to continue at a lower intensity. After treatment is over, we prioritize getting you back to your usual routine.

Physical Therapy services accompany other leading-edge treatments at BIDMC. Speak with your doctor about supplementing your cancer treatment with physical therapy as part of your personalized care plan.

Physical Therapy Treatment for Lymphedema

Lymphedema is swelling that occurs in your arms or legs as a result of the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. Our physical therapists and Lymphatic Center are highly trained to help relieve symptoms.

Our therapists will work with you to create a plan that you are most comfortable with and may include:

  • Compression at the first sign of lymphedema, getting a fitted compression sleeve may be all that is needed to keep the swelling under control. When lymphedema has already produced an increase in the size of the arm or leg, compression bandaging can help reduce the swelling. Your compression bandage will be worn day and night, sometimes for a few weeks, as the limb reduces in size. Once swelling has gone down, we will refer you for a compression sleeve or stocking that is to be worn during the day to keep the swelling under control.
  • Manual lymphatic drainage is type of light massage that can help increase lymphatic flow. At first, your physical therapist will perform the massage and then teach you a form of self-massage once treatment ends.
  • Skin care to prevent dry, chapped skin and avoiding skin punctures or injuries to reduce the chance of an infection that can worsen lymphedema.
  • Range of motion exercises, stretching, strengthening and cardiovascular exercises to help improve your overall energy level, and restore full motion and strength.
  • Soft tissue stretching and massage to help improve soft tissue and scar flexibility and reduce pain and sensitivity.

Lymphedema & Physical Therapy (PDF)