Best Uses of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation in Patients with Cancer

A Q&A with Val Jones, MD, Medical Director of Admissions, Saint Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute, Spokane, WA

Originally published February 1, 2017

Q: Your principal practice in Spokane, Washington is physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R). What do you find to be the best uses of PM&R in patients with cancer at your facility?

A: Rehabilitation medicine is one of the best-kept secrets in healthcare. Although the specialty is as old as America’s Civil War, few people are familiar with its history and purpose. Born out of compassion for wounded soldiers in desperate need of societal re-entry and meaningful employment, “physical reconstruction” programs were developed to provide everything from adaptive equipment to family training, labor alternatives and psychological support for veterans.

Physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) then expanded to meet the needs of those injured in World Wars I & II, followed closely by children disabled by the polio epidemic. In time, people recognized that a broad swath of diseases and traumatic injuries required focused medical and physical therapy to achieve optimal long term function. Today, cancer patients frequently benefit from comprehensive rehabilitation as they recover from the effects of chemo (neuropathy, weakness, and cognitive impairments), radiation (scarring and range of motion limitations), surgery (flaps, plastics procedures, tumor resection, amputations), and brain injuries (edema, debulking, gamma knife and neurosurgery). Continue reading…