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Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy advice for older children and teenagers.

We know there are many benefits from keeping physically active after a diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL). There are things which can make moving and being active more difficult for you during treatment for ALL. These can include side effects of medications, or limited opportunities to socialise with friends, attend school or take part in sports activities.

Physiotherapy and occupational therapy team

We aim to meet you and your family in the first month after diagnosis, to introduce our team and let you know how to contact us for support. We also check in in how you are managing with staying active.

You can ask to see a physiotherapist at reception, or speak to your doctor or nurse.


Physiotherapists will assess, treat and manage any difficulties you have with your movement, strength, balance and co-ordination so you can join in the activities you want to.

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists help you to carry out activities you want or need to be able to do. They assess and give advice on activities of daily living and self-care, access to school and can support you to participate in leisure activities, play or activities that are meaningful for you.

Therapy assistants

Therapy assistants work very closely with occupational therapists and physiotherapists to help carry out treatment plans. They support families and help you meet your goals.

Effects of treatment

The first few months of treatment (called induction) often have the biggest impact your movement and function. You may feel tired and not be interested in activities you normal enjoy.

You may notice differences during weeks with steroids and after certain chemotherapies like vincristine. If you notice you are struggling to move, tripping, falling or struggling with activities you would normally be able to do, please contact our office, or ask to see a physiotherapist in clinic.

We also know that physical activity is very important in keeping you healthy during treatment and want to keep you as active as possible. Being active will allow you to return to school and other activities as soon as you are able to.

Ideas to keep moving

You will have good days and bad days where you do not feel like doing much at all. Keeping moving is key, every bit of activity helps. Even just standing up whilst getting dressed, walking to the toilet or walking up the stairs.

Some ideas to help you stay active:

  • family walks
  • using a bike (if you do not have one, Cyclists Fighting Cancer charity may be able to give you up to 3 per family)
  • meeting up with friends
  • dance
  • yoga or Pilates
  • football with friends
  • joining in training sessions with sports teams, or practicing warm ups
  • apps such as Active Arcade or Just Dance
  • augmented reality apps such as Pokeman Go, The Walk, Jurassic world live, Harry Potter, Wizards Unite

Support from friends and family can boost your motivation to be active, so ask for their help. Sometimes, it can be hard to know what you are allowed to do on treatment. It is worth asking your doctor whether you are currently able to meet with friends, attend school or go to a playground.

Looking after parents and carers

It is common for your parents and carer to want to be protective with you after a diagnosis of ALL and that can be frustrating for you. If you can manage to move by yourself, show you parents and carers, every bit of movement helps keep you strong.

We do not want to risk any injuries to you or your family when things get difficult. Please call us and let us know if you are struggling with things like walking or climbing the stairs. We can give you ideas of how to adapt this to make it safer.

Its common for young people to tell us they are struggling with things like getting in and out the bath, or managing to walk to the toilet quickly enough. If you are struggling with this, ask to see us and we can problem solve some ideas and offer equipment to help.

Wheelchair or buggy

We can refer you child for a wheelchair if you are struggling to walk. However there may be a wait to receive this. British Red Cross can provide short term loans during this time.

Sling libraries

Baby slings or carriers can be useful if you have younger siblings who would normally use a pushchair if you need a wheelchair. They can also help you get outdoors as a family to places like woodland or beaches which are not easily accessible. There is a charge for this service, although there is help for families in financial need. The Sheffield sling library.


We have access to a hydrotherapy pool at Sheffield Children’s Hospital and can offer sessions for children and young people who would benefit. Hydro can help increase your strength and stamina. Speak to your physiotherapist if you would like more information.

School or college

Many children and teenagers carry on attending school throughout their treatment. Check in with your consultant as it will depend on your child’s blood counts. The Paediatric Oncology Outreach Nurses (POONs) can help with talking to school about your health needs at school.

Some children and teenagers attend part time, or may need a reduced timetable due to fatigue.

Later in treatment and end of treatment

By the time you get into the later (maintenance) phase of treatment, the chemotherapy is usually less intense and most children and young people with ALL be able to return to school or college and activities they enjoy, like swimming and sports teams.

Problems with fatigue (tiredness), mobility and getting back to sports are not uncommon at this point and if you do not feel back to normal for you, this is a good time to speak to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist to address these issues. We want you to be able to enjoy life to the full, now and in the future and the team will work with you towards your goals.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact our oncology physiotherapy and occupational therapy office on 0114 226 0646.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note: this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s NHS FT. These details may not reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If this information has been translated into another language from English, efforts have been made to maintain accuracy, but there may still be some translation errors. If you are unsure about any of the guidance in this resource or have specific questions about how it relates to your child, always ask your healthcare professional for further advice.

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S10 2TH

United Kingdom

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