Pink Pilates helps breast cancer women regain confidence

23:05, Nov 15 2010

A local breast cancer survivor is singing the praises of a specialised pilates programme, which she says gave her strength and confidence.

When Mary-Anne Crompton first went to Bodyright Pilates in Petone last year she was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment.

"I had no hair, no energy. I felt like crap".

She doubts she would have stepped into a busy gym to get the rehabilitation exercise she needed, but the one-on-one sessions available under the "Pink Pilates" programme suited her just fine.

"First of all they showed me how to breathe well. I wasn't getting much sleep at night, so that helped me deal with my anxiety and to feel better about myself."

With breast surgery, muscles in the shoulder and arm area are frequently affected.

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Thanks to the exercises she was given, Mrs Crompton said the movement in her arm affected by surgery was almost better than in the the other. "Pilates is a really excellent diagnostic tool. Each time they'd see me they'd ask 'what's hurting this week?' and then they'd talk about what might be underlying that and get to work on it."

Pink Pilates was developed four years ago in Auckland by a physiotherapist and breast surgeon, who talked to a range of health care providers involved with women's health. Uptake of the programme was so fast it went national in 2008, with funding from the NZ Breast Foundation so participants only have to pay a small fee for each session.

But a 230 per cent increase in participants in the last year has exhausted the 2010 funding.

At Bodyright Pilates in Petone, the only Pink Pilates provider in the Wellington region, 500 exercise sessions have been delivered to 54 women since 2008.

To ensure subsidised help could continue for the rest of this year for 10 women, Hutt and Petone Pak 'n Save owners Kieran and Leo O'Sullivan have stepped in as sponsors.

"Breast cancer has a huge impact on the lives of many people," Mr O'Sullivan said.

"It's great to be able to do something that makes such a positive difference."

Bodyright's Pink Pilates therapist Kate Graham says the one-on-one sessions, or group exercises with other women with breast cancer if they prefer it, "help them to feel part of their body again" when they may be at a low point.

"There is a risk after breast cancer surgery that women stop exercising and moving.

"This is the worst thing they can do but they often don't have the knowledge or confidence to know how to get started."

Nationally, 52 per cent of women on the 24 Pink Pilates programmes around New Zealand are referred by their doctor.

But any woman who is within two years of breast cancer surgery is able to approach providers like Bodyright directly.

Pink Pilates is a complementary blend of pilates, physiotherapy, massage, stretching, breathing techniques and exercise prescription to facilitate recovery from mastectomy, lumpectomy and breast reconstructive surgery.

The programme addresses the physical conditions and side effects from chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy, and can help reduce treatment-related side effects such as lymphoedema, osteoporosis, neuropathy, frozen shoulder, fatigue and weight gain.

The Pink Pilates Trust says research indicates a correlation between moderate physical exercise and an improved quality of life for women with breast cancer.

Exercise can help boost the immune system, limit weight gain from chemotherapy, ease cancer treatment side effects and reduce the onset of lymphoedema.

Hutt News