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Master Instructor Trainer PJ O’ Clair’s guide to mindful movement practice for breast cancer patients

Mindful movement for breast cancer patients

October is nationally recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the United States. This annual campaign helps raise awareness of the disease and fund research into its causes, treatment, and cure. Since 1985, individuals, businesses, and communities have come together every October to show their support for the many people affected by breast cancer. In addition to increasing awareness, it can also be a time to reflect, give back, or even celebrate.

October 13 is reserved to specifically recognize Metastatic Breast Cancer. About 30% of early-stage breast cancers eventually metastasize (spread to parts of the body away from the breast). 

Published Breast Cancer Statistics in the U.S.

  • In 2022, an estimated 290,560 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed along with 51,400 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer
  • An estimated 43,780 people will lose their lives to metastatic breast cancer
  • About 1 in 8 women and 1 in 833 men will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lives

As of 2020, there were 2.26 million global cases of breast cancer, making it the most diagnosed cancer in the world. 685,000 of those diagnosed have died.

Fortunately, with early detection and advancements in screening many patients diagnosed will survive the disease and go on to live out their normal life expectancy. Regular screening is highly recommended.

Physical activity is also advised for both pre-treatment and post-treatment. Movement therapy aims to strengthen the mind-body connection which is essential through all phases of healing.

Pre-operative programming

Once diagnosed preparing the body for breast cancer treatment(s) is extremely beneficial. Physical activity can help maintain or build lean tissue mass, gain physical strength, boost confidence, and reduce the associated stress that accompanies a diagnosis.

Post-operative programming

Patients are advised by their medical team to walk and keep active. Post-operatively the goal of a therapeutic program is to restore the health of the damaged or compromised myofascial continuities, facilitate the slide and glide of tissues between adjacent structures, decrease excessive scar tissue buildup, build the strength of the entire kinematic chain, address postural dysfunctions, help to regain sensory awareness and teach or restore proper breathing techniques.

Let’s walk through a series of videos where Master Instructor Trainer PJ O’ Clair guides us through 3 exercises where she talks about the importance of mindful movement for breast cancer patients.

1. Footwork and leg swings at the Stability Barre

What are the benefits of footwork and leg swings at the Stability Barre?

This easy yet effective workout inspired by the Total Barre® program can help improve the lower kinetic chain's posture, alignment, mobility, and stability. The leg swing pattern promotes elasticity and increases circulation and mobility of the hip joints.

2. Focused breathing with Mini Stability Balls

What are the benefits of focused breathing with Mini Stability Balls?

This workout from the Merrithew® Fascial Movement Foundation Course will help regulate the lymphatic system and rid the body of toxins. Breathing helps optimize tissue healing and creates resiliency in the ribcage and shoulder area. Breathing aids in the activation of the core musculature which is needed to support the body. A focused breathing practice stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, the division of the nervous system responsible for rest and recovery. Breathing helps to calm the body and mind.

3. Limb Bouncing with the Mini Stability Balls

What are the benefits of Limb Bouncing with the Mini Stability Balls?

The final exercise from the Merrithew Fascial Movement Foundation Course will help foster rhythmic movement by tapping into the body’s stored kinetic energy promoting spring-like quality in tissue. It also enhances sensory awareness.

Fascia in Sport and Movement, 2nd edition 2021, Chapter 46 Movement therapy for breast cancer survivors by PJ O’Clair
Schleip, R. Wilke, J. Baker, A.
Handspring Publishing Limited

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