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Dancing Away from Chemo-Induced Neuropathy

Dancing Away from Chemo-Induced Neuropathy

When Tina Fey played real-life war correspondent Kim Barker in the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot some reviewers thought the script was off-balance. The usually sure-footed Fey seemed to stumble in this offering. And that’s a shame since it’s been proved that a good tango (and we bet a foxtrot) can do a lot for your balance!

Researchers at Wexner Medical Center's Neurological Institute in Columbus, Ohio, have released preliminary findings on the benefits of tango lessons—that’s right, tango—for folks suffering with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. This nerve condition afflicts 60 percent of chemo recipients and can cause numbness and sharp pain in fingers, arms, toes and feet that interfere with mobility and stability. Thirty percent of folks still have nerve problems six months after treatment.

The researchers offered a 10-week, 20-lesson tango intervention to 30 patients. At the end of five weeks some participants decreased their lateral and medial sway (that’s rocking back and forth or side to side because of foot or toe neuropathy) by 56 percent, improving their balance and reducing the risk of falls.

Other good news, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, is that a combination of physical and occupational therapy, medication such as the antidepressant duloxetine, and complementary therapies, including acupuncture, manual lymph drainage, and reflexology, can improve quality of life, and may reduce discomfort and pain.

So if you have chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy, work with your docs to find a combination of treatments that will get and keep you dancing again!

Medically reviewed in August 2019.

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