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Fitness. Down to a Science

Cancer Rehabilitation

Cancer Rehabilitation

At One to One, we’ve helped people manage chronic pain and conditions for over 12 years. The basis of our treatment approach is through understanding the interconnectedness amongst a person’s mindset, mobility, muscle and metabolism. We have touched upon many populations that have benefited from this approach starting with persistent pain, to diabetes, osteoarthritis, osteopenia, fibromyalgia, and even cancer.

Cancer is a disease that gives many chills just thinking about it. It scares people for a lot of reasons; but for many individuals post-cancer treatment is wondering if this will return? We recently had the privilege of having Clinical Pain Specialist Michael Sangster, administer a Cancer Rehabilitation workshop for us to deeper our knowledge. There is a lot that our profession can offer this population to help control this illness and improve quality of life.


As with most chronic illness and any traumatic event to our body there is typically a period of increased sensitivity or pain. For individuals who have experienced cancer treatments, pain can be a result of life-saving surgeries, radiation treatments or chemotherapy impacting the nervous system, and even from medications that are prescribed. Becoming educated around pain, and how it pertains to your cancer treatments has shown to reduce pain severity, and increase self-efficacy and knowledge.


As with any population, mobility can play a major factor in the ability to reduce movement sensitivities and live actively. Going through treatments changes how the brain perceives areas of our body, a process called cortical reorganization. The brain dedicates more resources to the area that is painful so it is able to increase awareness and sensitivity to that area.  There are various evidenced-based techniques that can be used to help with this from graded motor imagery techniques (e.g., mirror therapy, motor imagery, left/right discrimination), to dynamic neural mobilizations and somatic exercises. Using these techniques can be key to reducing pain sensitivity, regaining awareness and improving mobility safely and effectively.


The Ontario Cancer Care Guidelines advises clinicians to encourage their patients to attend group or supervised exercise sessions at moderate levels when an individual is actively going through treatment or post-treatment therapy. This is why:

  • Cancer survivors who participate in minumum of 3 hours of moderate intensity exercise/week (walking like you are late for work) reduce their risk of death by 24-67%

  • A weight gain of 5-10lbs following your cancer diagnosis can increase risk of breast cancer recurrence by 50%

  • Breast Cancer survivors who are physically active can reduce their risk of death by 50%

  • Exercise improves Quality of Life, fatigue, sleep, mood

  • Exercise decreases pain severity in breast cancer survivors by 29%


Illnesses and diseases shift the metabolic processes of our body. Cancer can be thought of as the uncontrollable growth of cells, therefore a metabolic process. For cancers that are more sex dependent such as breast and prostate cancer, the tumor growth is typically associated with the sex hormones estrogen or testosterone. Incorporating more exercise into your life helps with this hormonal balance as it increases testosterone production, therefore decreasing the estrogen and the effects of estrogen medications typically prescribed for prostate cancers.

The impact of cancer spreads wide. It places additional stressors on all the key dimensions of wellness; Physical, social, emotional, spiritual, occupational, intellectual and environmental. Modern medicine has not been fortunate enough to find a cure, but with incorporating the 4 elements of health into your treatment, we can do everything within our control to enhance quality of life, reduce risk and stress, and live as happily as we possibly can.