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  • Carol Michaels

Balance Training After Cancer

Balance exercises will help you regain function and mobility for activities of daily living and are a key component for recovery after cancer surgery and treatments.

Your balance can suffer after surgical procedures and this is especially acute with the TRAM flap procedure where the rectus abdominus is altered. Poor core strength, caused by the change in placement of the rectus abdominus, has a negative effect on your balance. After a TRAM flap operation, you will need to learn how to compensate for this change of muscle placement through a series of exercises designed to strengthen the remaining muscles such as the obliques.

Balance exercises can counter some of the effects of muscle imbalances and body asymmetry after surgery. Some of the chemotherapies can affect your balance and cause neuropathy. Neuropathy, which can make your feet numb, is a common side effect of chemotherapy. If you cannot feel your feet, it becomes difficult to maintain good balance. You should incorporate balance exercises as a regular part of your fitness routine in order to learn how to compensate for neuropathy.

Stability exercises can help to enhance both steadiness and leg strength. Balance training will help decrease the likeliness of falling.

Falls and fall-related injuries, such as a hip fracture, can have serious consequences. If you fall, it could limit your activities or make it impossible to live independently. Balance and strength exercises can help prevent falls by improving your ability to control and maintain your body’s position whether you are in motion or stationary. Falls are dangerous for older women with weaker bones and for cancer survivors.

Cancer survivors are at high risk for osteoporosis due to chemotherapy and cancer medications. If you are nervous about falling, you might withdraw from your daily activities and decrease your quality of life.

The following exercises are aimed at improving your balance and your lower body strength. Start by holding on to a sturdy chair for support. To challenge yourself, start by holding the chair with only one hand. As you improve you will progress to holding the chair with only one finger and eventually you will be able to perform the exercise without holding the chair. To experience the importance of vision in balance, try some of the balance exercises with your eyes closed.

Start your balance exercise routine with the following exercises:

Standing on One Foot: hold for 10 seconds then switch legs

Tightrope: put your heel in front of the toe of the other foot walking a narrow path (put one foot in front of the other as if walking a tightrope)

Calf Raises or Heel Raises: stand in place and raising each heel up and down

Front, Back, and Side Leg Lifts or Raises

Grapevines: stepping sideways while crossing one foot in front, and then in back of the other

Pelvic Tilt: beginning level core strength

Bridge: core and lower body strength

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