Not all of us are meant to be ballet dancers, but being fit as well as having stamina, strength, and range of joint motion contribute to one’s ability to dance through life. Cancer treatments may have affected you physically and emotionally. Pain, malaise, fatigue, low blood counts, difficulty breathing, etc., resulting in the loss of muscle mass and stiffness and painful body movements keep this vicious cycle of deconditioning going. You may not ever be able to regain your pre-cancer diagnosis level of fitness, strength, and flexibility, but it can often be improved upon.
Be sure to first discuss with your doctor if more diagnostic testing may need to be performed and which one of these following options might be a best choice for you given your health, availability of resources, and/or insurance coverage. Upon reconditioning, the eventual goal is to try to participate in a safe and consistent exercise program.
You can work with professionals to rehabilitate your strength, ability, and balance. This can be through e.g. physical therapist, occupational therapist, cancer-certified exercise trainer, or an exercise physiologist.
It can feel frustrating when you have pain, stiffness, and a limited range of motion, especially when no clear biological explanation or helpful remedy can be found. It’s persistence can lead to dysfunction, disability, and emotional distress. One option to consider is a technique called Myofascial Release. The evidence has shown this techniques to be safe, gentle and effective. The essence of the technique involves the professional application of gentle pressure or a pulling motion (“telescoping”) that will allow the careful release of tight myofascia.
Most likely you are familiar with the plastic wrap that is commonly used in the kitchen and that can get wrinkled up before you are able to cover the intended target resulting in needing to get a new piece of plastic wrap and starting the process all over again! Your body has a similar “wrap”, called myofascia, that covers your organs, bones, tendons, and muscles. It can become tight due to stress, physical and emotional trauma, medical procedures, or injuries. These may result in stiffness, a limited range of motion, and pain in areas that may not make anatomical sense. Since this fascia is connected through your whole body like a web, you may not feel the symptoms in an expected location (for example, if you pull on the bottom of your shirt, you might feel that in your shoulders). Your nerves and blood vessels run through this web, which can produce unique symptoms, when the ‘web’ tightens.
To find relief, you can 1) try various self-help myofascial release methods that can stand on their own and/or 2) consider working with a professional. Having someone to partner with in developing a plan, such as a dedicated professional can alleviate not only your pain but also the stress. Locating a professional can be challenging depending on your location. There are a variety of providers that can offer myofascial release such as physical therapist and chiropractors. As with any field, please be sure to seek out someone who has undergone and continues in their specialized training and certifications, such as those providers trained in the John Barnes Method of Myofascial Release.
Enjoy moving through life, with grace, one dance at a time!