Safe Flexibility Exercises for Cancer Patients

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Topics include: Exercise and Fitness

Stretching is an important step in maintaining mobility and improving a person’s range of motion. How can cancer patients stretch safely during and after treatment? Join THRIVORS CEO and Founder Cathy Skinner as she demonstrates a stretch routine that loosens tight muscles in order to increase overall flexibility, balance and connectivity in the joints.

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Transcript

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

Hello. This is Cathy Skinner calling from Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Happy spring to everyone.  I hope you're starting to see some bright colors out there, feel the warmer temperatures, get outside and be a little more active.  

So today we're going to spend some time talking about stiff and tight muscles and what are some things that you can do to loosen up those muscles so that you can have better balance, better muscle mass, better connectivity in your joints, and then be more active, doing the things that you love to do.  

So today we're going to start with a stretch that's a little bit different than we would normally see.  I'm going to try to provide something for everybody today, whether you're a really pretty fit, active person, I'm going to provide a stretch suggestion for you, or if you're someone who's just getting back from surgery or treatment or has some other issues, I'm going to try to provide the gamut, and hopefully you'll leave today with something that you can take with you and integrate into your fitness life to add flexibility.  

So the first thing we're going to do is a modified runner's.  So maybe you remember from high school or elementary school where you did that stretch where you stuck one leg out on the ground and then you brought the other leg in front, or you folded that leg back.  Well, I find that that folding is awfully hard on the knee, and some people might not feel that comfortable getting with down on the floor, and, frankly, they have a harder time getting back up.  So don't—that's a skill you want to hang on to, but if it keeps you from working on your flexibility, let's make it more simple.  

So here we have, I'm proposing that you use a couple of chairs.  This would work great on a firm mattress or a firm couch, but you're going to extend that one leg and then you're going to take your shoulders as your center and lean over that leg and give it a stretch.  So again you're not tweaking the opposite knee, you're not getting up and down off the floor, and you're just holding.  I'm not super flexible, so stretching is really important for me to do as much as I can.  I like walking and I like strength training, but the flexibility part, not so good. So then next the leaning forward. 

So another part is you can actually rotate a little bit so that you have almost an L or 90 degrees, and then you're going to reach up and over and then arch and lengthen over the extended leg.  So again we're looking for opening up through the side of the body.  You should feel a nice, long stretch through your hamstrings, and you're going to be lengthening the top arm and just wrapping under with the bottom one.  Just take your time.  And so you can imagine this would be really great, make sure you do both sides so that you're balanced and even.  

And so the other thing I wanted to share is a quad stretch.  So we're going to get the front of the legs, and you've probably seen this before where people grab their ankles, and try not to grab the foot but really above the joint so you don't tweak on it.  The modification I wanted to show you is if you're really, really tight some of my clients love to just grab that pant leg, and so that's a nice modification for getting at that quad.  But you're looking for the tops of the legs to be even.  

If you can balance without holding on, that's great.  If you need something to hold onto, that's also fine.  And again you're going to make sure you do both sides. And we're opening up the muscles on the front of the legs called your quadriceps.  And people have seen this stretch before, but it's really a good one. You can do this at the kitchen counter or you can do this at the bathroom counter.  I wouldn't recommend it at Target, but any time you're just kind of standing and waiting it's a great stretch to do.  

So here's a modification or a different stretch that I hope you'll find interesting.  So you're going to reach your right foot back and stride long, right?  So the heels are pressed behind you.  So think about your head, shoulders, hip, knee and leg being a long, straight line. So this is a calf stretch.  You're getting to the lower part of your leg.  

But here's the variation.  Stretching is great, but the muscles need to work in opposition.  So push through the calf, and you're actually going to raise up. So you tighten that muscle by lifting and then relaxing and stretching and you're going to go a little further, okay? So you're almost tricking your muscles. Again, push up so you feel like you're standing strong in that leg and then relax and stretch it a little bit longer. Feels good.   

Here's what you're going to add.  You can do a two for one where you're stretching your lats, which is a big, long muscle along your ribs and your calf at the same time.  So you're going to put your elbow up on that wall, so right elbow, right leg, and stretch.  And so I'm going to be pulling down on my elbow so I feel like I'm stretching through the body and I'm still catching my calf.  Then as you push up through the calf push into the elbow.  Then bush into the wrist and then relax so you can get a little further.  So you're getting some stretching through the shoulder and the calf.  I'm a big fan for two for one, so you get a lot done in pretty short order.  

So here's something for people who are a little more active.  The stretches that we've done so far, the modified runner's stretch and then the quad stretch, the calf stretch, the lats stretch, those are all called passive stretching or static stretching.  Now I'd like to show you just a little quick, fun thing, active stretching.  And it's really like a giant pendulum where you just swing your leg through and swing your leg high, and it's just a way to loosen up through the muscles and the joints. I recommend hanging on for this one because it's really about looseness through the leg.  

And you really want to make sure that you do both sides, right?  So you swing through, swing out, swing through.  And you can rotate through the hip, open up.  And just get it nice a loose.  And sometimes some of that active movement is a great way to get you warm and ready for a nice walk or a bike ride, a jog, even a swim. Whatever your sport of choice is or activity of choice is, moving is good.  

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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Page last updated on June 12, 2019