Exercise Prevents Nerve Damage During Chemotherapy

Written By Mark

A new study has shown that doing specific exercises while receiving cancer treatment can prevent nerve damage in many cases.

The study was conducted by a research team led by sports scientist Dr. Fiona Strickmann from the University of Basel and the German Sport University in Cologne, and its results were published in the journal JAMA International Medicine on July 1, and were written about by the EurekAlert website.

chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy

Unfortunately, many cancer drugs, from chemotherapy to newer immunotherapies, attack nerves as well as cancer cells. Some treatments, such as oxaliplatin or vinca alkaloids, cause 70 to 90 percent of patients to complain of pain, balance problems, numbness, burning, or tingling.

These symptoms can be very debilitating and may go away after cancer treatment, but they become chronic in about half of patients. Specialists call these symptoms chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.

Balance exercises

The study included 158 male and female cancer patients who were receiving treatment with either oxaliplatin or vinca alkaloids.

The researchers randomly divided the patients into three groups: the first was a control group whose members received standard care without exercise, while the other two groups completed exercise sessions twice a week throughout the duration of chemotherapy, each session lasting between 15 and 30 minutes.

One group did exercises that focused primarily on balancing on an increasingly unstable surface, and the other group trained on a vibration plate.


Regular checkups over the next five years showed that in the control group, about twice as many participants developed chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy as in either exercise group.

In other words, exercise combined with chemotherapy reduced nerve damage by 50 to 70 percent.

In addition, exercise improved patients’ quality of life, reduced the need to reduce the doses of cancer drugs used, and reduced mortality in the five years following chemotherapy.