Clinical Pilates For Breast Cancer Patients

Thanks to early detection and advancements in treatment methods, many women can now survive breast cancer and live out their normal life expectancy. Whilst this is obviously this good news, cancer treatments take an enormous toll on the body and mind. Weight gain, muscle atrophy and premature bone loss are common. The resulting weakness makes it challenging for patients to perform their normal daily activities. Combined with the accompanying fatigue, apathy and depression may develop.

Pilates is a restorative exercise method that potentially help women recover and rebuild their bodies after cancer treatment. Its creator, Joseph Pilates, was considered a master of rehabilitation. Using precise, controlled movements, the system aids in the recovery process.

Breast Cancer Treatments and Their Side Effects

Breast cancer treatment has two goals: ridding the body of the disease and minimizing the chance of the cancer returning.  Patients receive either local or systemic treatments or a combination of the two. Local treatments –which include lumpectomy, mastectomy, breast-conserving surgery and lymph-node removal – remove damaged tissue around the cancer site.  In contrast, systemic cancer treatments destroy cancer cells throughout the entire body. Examples include chemotherapy, hormone therapy and biological therapy.

The side effects of breast cancer treatments include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Swelling
  • Infection
  • Joint stiffness
  • Scar tissue
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain
  • Low self esteem

Some side effects are even more serious. Carolyn Kaelin, MD, MPH, founding director of the Comprehensive Breast Health Center at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston outlines other potential problems, including

  • Lymphedema is a swelling that may occur after axillary lymph node dissection. The altering of the lymph channels interferes with the body’s ability to drain lymph fluid from the arm back into the circulatory system. The breathing system used in Pilates can improve lymph drainage.
  • Rotator cuff issues might result from the surgical process, and interfere with postural alignment and upper body movement mechanics. Pilates helps break down scar tissue and restore functional movement patterns.
  • Sarcopenia results from the simultaneous loss of muscle tissue and gain in body fat. Pilates helps rebuild muscle tone. Although Pilates is not considered aerobic exercise, the transition from bed rest to some activity can rev up the metabolism.
  • Osteoporsis, even in younger women, might result from some of the breast cancer medications. Pilates strength exercises can restore some bone density.
  • Muscular imbalances can occur as a result of the breast reconstruction process. Pilates helps correct muscle imbalances.

Many of our Clinical Pilates instructors here in Happy Physio are also physiotherapists. Call us on (08) 9272 7359 today and let us help you through your post-rehab process.