Breast cancer survivors who participated in a multimodal program, including core stability exercises and post-exercise massage, experienced significant reductions in fatigue and improvements in strength, according to recent research.

The study, “Effectiveness of Core Stability Exercises and Recovery Myofascial Release Massage on Fatigue in Breast Cancer Survivors: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial,” involved 78 breast cancer survivors.

Participants were eligible for the study if they had a diagnosis of stage I to IIIA breast cancer, were between the ages of 25 and 65 years old, had completed treatment except hormone therapy and did not have active cancer.

A final inclusion criteria was that each subject presented to the referring oncologist with four or five of the following: neck or shoulder pain, reduced range of motion in neck and shoulder region, reduced physical capacity, psychological problems, increased fatigue, sleep disturbances or problems coping with physical and psychosocial functioning.

Participants were randomly assigned to either the control group, where they received standard care, or to the multimodal intervention group. Within eight weeks, the intervention group received 24 one-hour personal training sessions, and each of these training sessions was followed by 30 to 40 minutes of “recovery procedures,” which included stretching and massage, using myofascial release techniques.

After eight weeks, subjects in the multimodal intervention group received a DVD with instructions for continuing the exercise program at home, including self-massage and relaxation techniques.

Researchers used the Profile of Mood States questionnaire to assess the fatigue of the breast cancer survivors, as well as their levels of tension-anxiety, depression-dejection, anger-hostility, vigor and confusion. Secondary outcome measures included a trunk curl endurance and leg strength. Participants were evaluated at baseline, after eight weeks and again six months later.

“The current study found that an eight-week supervised multimodal program induced physical and psychological improvements in [breast cancer survivors],” state the study’s authors. “We noted a greater decrease in fatigue as compared to usual breast cancer care.

“The effects over fatigue were maintained at six months after discharge using DVD support,” they continued. “We also observed significant effects on other aspects of mood and physical capacity.”

These other aspects included decreases in tension-anxiety, depression-dejection and anger-hostility among the subjects in the multimodal intervention group. These subjects also had an increase in vigor as compared to the control group. In addition, the trunk curl endurance and leg strength of the participants in the multimodal group improved.

Authors: Irene Cantarero-Villanueva, Carolina Fernández-Lao, Rosario del Moral-Avila, César Fernández-de-las-Peñas, María Belén Feriche-Fernández-Castanys and Manuel Arroyo-Morales.

Sources: Department of Physical Therapy, Health Sciences Faculty, University of Granada, Granada, Spain; Radiotherapy Breast Oncology Unit, University Hospital Virgen de las Nieves, Granada, Spain; Department of Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine, King Juan Carlos University, Alcorón, Spain; Physical Education Department, Faculty of Sciences, Physical Activity and Sports, University of Granada, Granada, Spain. Originally published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, volume 2012.