Physical therapy has been shown to improve strength, range of motion, sleep, energy, and mood while reducing pain, anxiety, and symptoms of treatment-related side effects, such as neuropathy in children with pediatric cancer. Occupational and speech therapy can also be extremely beneficial for cancer rehabilitation depending on the diagnosis and side effects.
Physical therapists are in your corner to join the fight!
- Maintaining or improving physical function: Cancer and its treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, can often lead to physical side effects and complications. Physical therapy helps children maintain or regain their physical function, strength, flexibility, and mobility. It focuses on improving overall physical abilities and reducing the impact of cancer-related limitations.
- Managing pain and discomfort: Cancer treatment can cause pain and discomfort in children. Physical therapy techniques, such as therapeutic exercises, manual therapy, and modalities like heat or cold therapy, can help alleviate pain, reduce muscle stiffness, and improve joint mobility. Physical therapists can also provide guidance on proper body mechanics and techniques to minimize pain during daily activities.
- Preventing or reducing treatment-related complications: Some cancer treatments may have adverse effects on the musculoskeletal system, such as decreased bone density, muscle weakness, and joint contractures. Physical therapy interventions can address these issues and help prevent complications. For example, therapists can provide exercises to strengthen bones, maintain muscle mass, and prevent contractures, reducing the risk of long-term functional limitations.
- Enhancing the overall quality of life: Cancer and its treatments can significantly impact a child’s quality of life. Physical therapy not only focuses on physical aspects but also considers the emotional and social well-being of the child. By helping children maintain or improve physical function, physical therapy allows them to participate in activities they enjoy, interact with peers, and maintain a sense of normalcy.
- Supporting psychological well-being: Cancer can be emotionally challenging for children and their families. Physical therapy can provide a supportive and encouraging environment, promoting a positive mindset and emotional well-being. Through therapeutic activities, physical therapists can help reduce anxiety, improve self-esteem, and enhance a child’s overall psychological resilience.
- Facilitating a smoother transition to regular activities: After cancer treatment, children often face challenges when reintegrating into regular activities, such as school, sports, and play. Physical therapy can help bridge this transition by gradually increasing activity levels, providing adaptive strategies if needed, and monitoring progress. The therapist works closely with the child, family, and other healthcare providers to ensure a safe and successful return to normal activities.
It’s important to note that the specific goals and interventions of physical therapy may vary depending on the individual needs and circumstances of each child. Any level of exercise during and after cancer treatment can reduce side effects, help your body recover, and fight depression. Research from the American Society of Clinical Oncology has shown that physical activity can also lower the risk of cancer returning.
If you feel your child could benefit from PT, OT, or speech treatment, BDI Playhouse can help! Get started here!
Written By: Dana Bukala, PTA