Exercises for Strength and Balance May Improve Chemotherapy Pain, QoL

A randomized trial examined the effectiveness of muscle strengthening and balancing exercises on chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) and quality of life (QoL) among cancer patients.

“Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is the presence of tingling, burning, itching, and unpleasant sensations in hands and feet due to nerve damage by chemotherapy. Exercise rehabilitation has potential to prevent or alleviate CIPN,” the study authors explained.

The study included 45 cancer patients at an Indian tertiary care hospital who were being treated with chemotherapeutic drugs paclitaxel and carboplatin and had CIPN. Patients were randomized into two groups: exercise (n=22) or usual care (n=23). The exercise group participated in 10 weeks of home-based muscle strengthening and balancing exercises. The Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy Assessment Tool, nerve conduction velocity, Leeds Assessment of Neuropathic Symptoms and Signs pain scale, and European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire were used to collect patient data including demographics, clinical characteristics, CIPN, neuropathic pain, and QoL.

Demographics were similar between the groups; clinically, the exercise group had larger body surface area and was receiving a higher dose of paclitaxel. The exercise group, compared to the usual care group, experienced significant reduction in neuropathic pain scores (P<0.0001) as well as improved functional (P=0.0002), symptom (P=0.0003), and global health status QoL (P=0.004) scores after the exercise intervention.

The study authors concluded that muscle strengthening and balancing exercises successfully helped reduce CIPN pain and improved QoL. They recommended that they be included as a complementary therapy in CIPN management.

Exercise Helps Cancer Patients with Daily Functioning

The effect of exercise on cancer patients has been the subject of many studies. One study examined how the perceived physical and psychological benefits of exercise help cancer patients with functioning in normal, daily life.

This analysis included interviews with 21 patients (mean age, 57.5 years; 18 patients were female); 15 patients had breast cancer, and three patients each had colorectal and prostate cancer. Two main themes were identified through the interviews, one of which was “struggling with impairments from side effects of cancer treatment.”

The study authors observed, “Acute and late side effects of the treatment had a negative impact on participants’ daily life, and limited activity and restricted participation. Despite struggling with side effects, the participants attended the exercise intervention and experienced positive effects, and believed their functioning in daily life would have been even worse without the intervention.”