Exercise helped reduce associated joint pain in breast cancer patients in a recent study. Pain or stiffness in the joints occurs in up to half of women treated with hormonal therapy such as anastrozole and is one of the most common reasons for poor adherence to therapy. The study found that a year-long exercise program improved joint pain in breast cancer survivors who were taking hormonal therapy for at least six months and reported significant joint pain and stiffness. This is great news because so many women discontinue use of normal therapy due to its side effects. The improvement in pain with exercise has been shown to be better than other therapies for joint pain, such as glucosamine, vitamin D, and acupuncture. Exercise will also decrease weight and improve general fitness level.
A total of 121 women who were able to exercise, yet physically inactive at the outset participated; 61 were randomly allocated to 150 min/wk of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise and twice-weekly supervised resistance exercise sessions and 60 to usual care. Baseline characteristics were comparable between the two groups. At 12 months, measures of worst pain, pain severity, and pain interference on the Brief Pain Inventory Short Form (BPI) declined by 20% among women in the exercise group, compared with modest increases or no change in joint pain among women in the usual care group.
The exercisers experienced these clinically significant improvements regardless of age, disease stage, whether they received chemotherapy, radiation, or both, and how long they had been on AI therapy. Women who attended at least 80% of the supervised exercise sessions experienced a 25% decrease in worst pain scores, while women who attended fewer sessions experienced a 14% decrease.