Cancer treatment can be grueling, leaving you exhausted, weak, and in pain while recovering from chemotherapy or surgery. Tasks that were once effortless, like getting out of bed, going to the gym, or playing with grandchildren become chores. Despite advances in medical treatments, individuals that receive cancer treatments typically experience extensive physical limitations during and after treatments. These limitations include and are not limited to cancer-related fatigue (CRF), pain, nerve damage, lymphedema, and deconditioning. This is where physical therapy can help.

A physical therapist will meet with you at your first visit to discuss your recovery and goals. Together you will develop a plan on how to improve your physical wellbeing and will coordinate with your oncology providers in the case of ongoing treatment. Physical therapy commonly includes therapeutic exercise to strengthen and improve coordination and balance, manual therapy including joint and soft tissue mobilization to improve flexibility and soften scar tissue, as well as modalities like LASER and infrared therapy to enhance tissue healing. Physical therapy can address common cancer related impairments including:

Pain: There are many pain relief strategies that can reduce the intensity and frequency of pain after cancer treatment. The physical therapist will assess your pain and determine its cause. For example, if the pain is due to underuse or imbalance of muscles, buildup of scar tissue or fluids in the body, or caused by nerve damage. Specifically, pain relief treatment strategies may include but are not limited to soft tissue mobilization, therapeutic massage, modalities, therapeutic stretching and strengthening.

Cancer Related Fatigue: Individualized aerobic training, strength training and functional management training is known to reduce effects of cancer related fatigue both during and after medical cancer treatments.

Deconditioning: Rebuilding endurance for activities and cardiovascular function can be difficult during and after cancer treatment. A skilled physical therapist is able to design a graduated program that appropriately challenges you and will monitor cardiovascular endurance training.

Peripheral neuropathy: Often times, cancer survivors experience peripheral neuropathy, which is abnormal nerve function that can be experienced as pain, numbness and tingling. Peripheral neuropathy can also impair you sense of balance and efficient of your gait and may manifest as difficult walking or a feeling of unsteadiness. Physical therapy can help to improve nerve function or compensate for nerve dysfunction.

Lymphedema: Effective lymphedema management is accomplished through manual lymph drainage, range of motion exercises, systematic massage, aerobic exercise, and lymphatic bandaging. Effective lymphedema management requires commitment and consistency to optimize outcomes.

Breast Cancer Specific Recovery Program

Farmington Valley Physical Therapy offers two types of therapeutic exercise and movement programs for Breast Cancer survivors. Breast Cancer survivors can attend physical therapy where they will work one-on-one rehabilitation professional to manage pain, lymphedema (swelling of the arm due to reduced circulation of fluid called lymph), scar formation, and regaining strength and coordination of the chest muscles and affected arm. FVPT has experience helping patients as they recover from a variety of breast cancer surgeries including lumpectomy, mastectomy and breast cancer reconstructive surgeries.

Once the patient is able to move comfortably, they may proceed onto group exercise classes. In partnership with SOMA Movement Studio, FVPT offers patients group Pink Ribbon Program exercise classes to augment and complement their rehabilitation program. Group Exercise classes provide a supportive environment to build strength, coordination, endurance in addition to independence and confidence.

About the Pink Ribbon Program
Pink Ribbon Program is a Pilates-based rehabilitation program for post-operative breast cancer survivors which is designed to help survivors regain movement, strength, comfort and confidence during their recovery.  Survivors face many physical challenges after undergoing breast cancer surgery and treatment, which are often compounded by the emotional stress that results from living with a life-threatening condition. Pilates provides an exercise technique that can help both mind and body recover and rehabilitate at a gradual and comfortable pace.


The Pink Ribbon exercise program is a six week program that is designed to begin about six weeks postoperatively, after scars have healed and the client has been cleared by their surgeons and physicians for exercise. The six week program is divided into three phases, each about two weeks long. 

  • Phase 1, the goal is regaining range of motion and moving pain free.
  • Phase 2, we’re still focusing on the affected area, but incorporating more integrated full body movement. We want clients to feel like a whole person.
  • Phase 3 looks more like Pilates—there’s a strength component. It’s a gradual process, but patients should gain a lot of range of motion after the six weeks, should have a reduced amount of pain, and feel like they’re getting back to who they were before.

Phases can be repeated if the client needs more time to progress. Pilates offers a gentle, low-impact reintroduction or first-time introduction to regular exercise that can help one regain strength and endurance. The ultimate goal of the Pink Ribbon Program is to get breast cancer survivors to move beyond Pink Ribbon to mainstream forms of exercise.  

If you would like someone from the FVPT to contact you about learning more about or starting the Pink Ribbon Program or any other program at FVPT, fill out the form below and someone will get in contact with you within 24 business hours.

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