No effective cures for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) are known; however, exercise may be beneficial.
The purpose of this review was to synthesize high-quality research publications reporting the effects of exercise on CIPN and related outcomes among people of all age groups who received neurotoxic chemotherapy.
PubMed, CINAHL, Scopus, PsycINFO, and SPORTDiscus databases were searched first between May and November 2016 and then again in April 2019 for all clinical trials and meta-analyses. Subsequent hand-searching continued through April 2019. Potential scientific bias was rigorously evaluated, using the CONSORT (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials) guidelines.
Thirteen studies (7 randomized controlled trials, 6 quasi-experiments) were found that reported exercise effects in various adult CIPN populations (ie, mixed cancer types and stages, chemotherapy regimens and status, and CIPN presence and severity). No studies provided high-quality evidence; 2 studies provided moderate-quality evidence. Most studies (76.3%) evaluated combined aerobic, strength, and balance training interventions of varying dosages. The most commonly improved outcomes were CIPN, balance, and fitness. All 7 studies with an aerobic exercise component led to significant—most studies showing moderate to large—CIPN benefits.
Few studies—none of high quality or in child/adolescent populations—have evaluated exercise effects on CIPN. The exercise interventions, dosages, and settings have been too heterogeneous to identify the most beneficial intervention for other CIPN-related outcomes. However, aerobic exercise may be a key component of exercise interventions for CIPN.
Implications for Practice
Although promising, the empirical evidence is insufficient to definitively conclude that exercise interventions ameliorate CIPN.