By Melissa Glinsmann, MSPT, CCCE TherapyPlus

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States.

Madonna TherapyPlus  at ProActive has a uniquely designed aquatic program for breast cancer survivors called Ripple Effects. The focus of this program is on the management of breast cancer surgical related effects such as loss of flexibility and strength in the corresponding upper extremities, chest, and axilla, as well as scar tissue management, and pain through effective aquatic exercise paired with land-based techniques.

Physical therapy can help restore flexibility and strength in the shoulder, chest and neck regions through therapeutic exercise as well as passive stretching. Physical therapists will also evaluate posture to ensure proper muscle length and strength. We also can assess scar mobility in both the breast and axillary (armpit) regions. We also look at the integrity of nerves in the shoulder and arm to ensure no damage is present.

The reason we utilize the aquatic environment as a treatment of choice is for the physical properties of water. In warm water, people with limited mobility can perform strength and flexibility exercises that they are unable to accomplish on land. Warm water soothes painful joints and relaxes and relieves tight or painful muscles, allowing a more effective program than might be possible on land. Water naturally causes buoyancy which reduces the effects of gravity and enables greater mobility. Our general program goals for aquatic therapy for breast cancer survivors are to restore range of motion (ROM) and flexibility, decrease pain, decrease lymphedema, decrease risk of osteoporosis, improve endurance and aerobic capacity, posture and stress management and help patients gain social support and outreach.

If you happen to be experiencing pain in the chest, shoulder, or upper back, have loss of ROM, strength and function in chest and shoulder or decrease in overall fitness, please consider our Ripple Effect program to address your needs.