One of the most prevalent cancer treatment complications is deconditioning. Deconditioning is a term often used in occupational therapy to describe the results of the body adapting to being immobile for a long period of time.
An important side effect of deconditioning is muscle loss, which includes the heart. In addition to the muscles weakening, they will also shorten, which is associated with joint health and posture issues. Some eventual consequences can include pain, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
The respiratory system is also affected by cancer-related deconditioning, especially in healthy patients who are prescribed bed rest. This can lead to the weakening of the respiratory muscles and fluid build-up, which can cause shortness of breath and infection.
Deconditioning can also affect your cardiovascular system, increasing the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which can be a potentially deadly condition if the clot travels to the heart, lungs, or brain.
Moderate levels of activity (30 minutes daily) have been associated with higher cancer survival rates, so the effects of deconditioning can truly be life-threatening.
This is why cancer rehabilitation may be a key part of your cancer journey. It can include strength and endurance training, cardiorespiratory training, and stretching. It can also provide deep breathing exercises and address rib cage tightness in order to improve respiratory function. In addition to this, the physical activity prescribed in cancer rehab will increase blood flow and reduce the risk of DVT.1
If you haven’t been referred to cancer rehabilitation, talk with your doctor to see if cancer rehab could help you.