You visit the doctor and dentist every year as a normal part of taking care of yourself. Why not your physical therapist? Cancer and cancer treatments/surgeries can cause late/long term effects which can affect your function and quality of life.  Identifying issues early and addressing them is important to keeping you functioning at your best.  This is why we recommend getting an annual physical therapy (PT) exam.

An annual physical therapy (PT) exam offers an in-depth look at your musculoskeletal system and your overall fitness/function. Its main goal, among other things, is to identify early problems that can lead to severe ailments or turn into chronic aches and pains.   Let’s jump into why we think an annual PT exam is good for you.

What is a Physical Therapy Exam

A PT exam is similar to a regular checkup with your primary healthcare doctor, but focuses specifically on the musculoskeletal system and your function/fitness level.

The musculoskeletal system includes your skeleton, muscles, connective tissues, and ligaments. The health of your musculoskeletal system can vary each year due to natural physical changes, changes in mobility, late effects of treatment and surgeries, or injury, making a PT exam essential to monitoring and maintaining your health.

A physical therapist will go over any concerns that you may have as well as assess your mobility and body: posture, strength, balance, joint mobility and soft tissue health to name a few. 

ORW physical therapists are especially trained to give PT exams for cancer patients and to spot related symptoms. Our therapists have specialized knowledge about oncology rehabilitation and can create an exercise and/or dietary program that will serve you best. Even if you are already on a set exercise program, an annual PT exam can still benefit you by giving you and your therapist a way to evaluate your yearly progress and make adjustments if needed.

Reasons to Get a Physical Therapy Exam

1. Prevent Future Pain and Stay in Shape

You don’t need to be recovering from surgery or have a physical injury to see a physical therapist. In fact, the reason we recommend getting an annual physical therapy exam is that it can catch and prevent the kinds of conditions that might lead you to injury or surgery in the future. 

For example, some medications can have adverse effects on your body.  Certain cancer medications, such as aromatase inhibitors, can affect your joints, ligaments and tendons. Radiation (yes, even if years ago) can also cause changes to your muscles, soft tissues, and bone that can lead to changes in your movement patterns.  All of these changes can affect your function and comfort.  Identifying issues before they become a “problem” can assist you in keeping your body moving at its best. 

Other medications can have long term effects on your heart making keeping up an exercise routine even more important.  A PT can help guide you to progress your exercise program safely.

Is one of your New Year’s Resolutions to work out more? A physical therapy exam is a good idea if you’re starting a new exercise regimen or starting to work out after time off. If you’re planning on something aggressive, like a first-time marathon or a new sport, this is even more important. When you haven’t been active for a while or you’re using new muscles, you can be more prone to injury.

A physical therapist can tell you if you have any underlying imbalances or weaknesses you should watch out for and give you exercises to improve your strength, flexibility, mobility, and endurance.

2. Recover from Surgery or Chemotherapy

At ORW, we specialize in treating cancer patients and the raft of physical issues that can result from chemotherapy, such as treatment-related fatigue, brain fog, muscular weakness, and loss of balance. We also specialize in helping patients recover from surgery and can recommend specific gentle exercises to restore sensation, circulation, and flexibility around the site of an incision.

If it has been years since your diagnosis and/or you are no longer undergoing treatment, a physical therapy exam can still help you. Many cancer patients experience effects of cancer treatment months or even years after completing chemotherapy or receiving surgery or radiation. 

Getting a physical therapy exam once a year is a good way to make sure that you still have the flexibility and mobility you need to continue your preferred lifestyle.

3. Solve Old Aches and Pains

Your cancer rehab PT can also help you with other aches and pains unrelated to your cancer history.  Perhaps you suffer from recurring headaches or back pain, but never felt they were “bad enough” to warrant a trip to the doctor.

A physical therapy exam can help you identify the root causes of these pains — an old injury, misalignment, or pinched nerve — and help you fix them before they become serious enough to affect your function and quality of life. 

After the Exam

Once you have gone through a PT exam, you will know what steps you need to take to ensure your continued health. Your physical therapist can provide you with options that best suit your lifestyle and schedule, whether that means some simple posture corrections, a stretching program, or developing a strength or cardio exercise program for you — to meet you where you are and help you stay well. For more involved issues, physical therapy treatments may be recommended. 

Being able to take action after you have your PT exam is empowering — and will help you to stay functioning at your best. We want you to remain committed to improving your health, and we are here to support and encourage you!

Oncology Rehabilitation and Wellness has specific exercise and health programs designed for our patients undergoing cancer treatment/after cancer treatment, breast cancer,  late effects of cancer treatments and lymphedema. We even offer “prehabilitation” programs for patients newly diagnosed to assist with tolerance of treatments and to help improve recovery from surgery or other cancer treatments.

In these challenging times of the pandemic we also want you to know that we take your care and safety seriously and have options for telehealth and telerehab.  Want to get the best of both in clinic and telerehab?  We offer hybrid visits as well so that you can attend in clinic sessions as well as telerehab to best meet your needs. You can sign up for your PT exam with us today when you click here