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Post Mastectomy Exercise: A Rehabilitation Guide after Breast Surgery

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I’m a breast cancer patient fighting for my rights to live. I created to show that BIG C is not the end of the world. But a beginning of a fight and a new life. I encourage those who are at the same shoes to fight even if you feel exhausted, even your wallet was drained. That, there are reason to fight back and a reason not to give up. Cheers!

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Post mastectomy exercise is a part of rehabilitation after breast cancer surgery. These exercises should be done with the guidance of your surgeon or physical therapist. The goal is to bring back the full range motion of the arms and shoulder of the affected area and feel the normal situation as before.

Until such time that your drain and sutures are removed, exercises should be done. But some exercises are needed as soon as after surgery such as shoulder and arm motion to help restore movements.

How I fight breast cancer? Find it here

A day after surgery, the doctor told me to comb my hair. It was funny because the doctor knows that I lost my hair after chemotherapy. But he is not joking nor mocking my situation. Combing your hair is part of a post mastectomy exercise to loosen the tightness of the muscle after mastectomy. In today’s article, I will show you what are the best post mastectomy exercises that are needed by a breast cancer patient.

Different kinds of Post Mastectomy Exercise

1. Deep Breathing exercise

Deep breathing can help ease the discomfort and tightness around your incision. It relaxes the body and relieves stress during the day.

In doing this, you need a chair and sit comfortably.

1. Slowly take a deep breath through your nose.

2. Let your belly and Chest expand for a while and breath out slowly through your mouth. Repeat this process as many times as possible. 

It can be done in 10 repetitions 5x a day. 

2. Arm and Shoulder Exercise

Shoulder Rolls

Shoulder Rolls is a good beginner for post mastectomy exercise. It provides a gentle stretch to the chest and muscle. It warms up the muscles, tendons, and joints to help reduce the pain and stiffness in the shoulder area. 

How to do this?

 1. Stand or sit comfortably. Place your arm in a relaxing position by your side.

2. Slowly move your shoulder up, forward, back, and down like in a circular motion, making a small circle at first and big circles gradually. Make your shoulders move at the same time.

3. Repeat the movement backward until the set is complete.

4. Change direction after 10 circle motion.

  • You may feel some tightness across your incision. Try to begin with a small circle but increase the size as the tightens lessens. Breathe deeply and keep the movement continuous.
  • The backward motion may find a little tighter but try to continue as it lessens with practice.

Shoulder Wings

This exercise can be done by sitting or standing. It will help get back to your shoulder movement.

1.Start by sitting comfortably with your hand on your lap.

2. Place both hands on your collar bone.

3. Raise your elbow out to the side as high as you can but not higher than 90 degrees’ motional structure or shoulder level. 

4. Slowly lower your elbow and repeat this 10 times.

* If there is discomfort across your incision, hold your position and take a deep breathing exercise

post mastectomy exercise

Arm Circles

If you have surgery on both breasts, this post mastectomy exercise can be done one at a time. Do not do this exercise on both arms at the same time. It may cause too much pressure on your chest.

  1. To start, balance your body by slightly keeping your feet apart.
  2. Raise your hand as high as you can but no higher than 90 degrees. 
  3. Create a backward motion circle in the air slowly. Make sure to move your shoulder and not with your elbow.
  4. Complete the 10 repetitions in a forward and backward motion. Take a break if you are tired or you feel your arm is aching and continue again.

W Exercise

 This exercise can be done by sitting or standing or lying on your back.

  1. Stretch or form your arm in a W position with your palm facing forward with your shoulder no higher than 90 degrees. Bring your arm to your highest comfortable position but no higher than 45 degrees.
  2. Pinch your shoulder blade together and downward as you were squeezing a pencil between your shoulder blade
  3. If you feel discomfort in the part of the incision, stop in your position and do a deep breathing exercise. If the discomfort passes, try to bring your shoulder blade a little closer together. If the discomfort doesn’t pass hold your position and squeeze your shoulder blade downward for 5 sec. Slowly back your arm back down in your starting position. Repeat this exercise 10 times.

Back Climb

 This post mastectomy exercise can be done after your second visit to your surgeon. It can be done in a sitting or standing position.

  1. Place your hand behind your back and place your affected arms at the grasp of your other hand. If both breasts have surgery, use the most comfortable hand to assist the other hand.
  2. Slowly slide your hand at the center of your back as high as possible. Hold it for 1 minute. If you feel pulling on your incision, stop in that position, and do a deep breathing exercise.
  3. If the tightens go away on your incision, try to pull again in a higher position, but if it’s not do not force your arm to slide further. Stay in that position and you must feel a gentle stretch on your shoulder area. After a minute, slowly lower your hands. Do this for 10 repetitions if you feel comfortable.

Forward wall crawl

For this exercise, you will need 4 pcs of tape. This will be your marker in your progress in doing this post mastectomy exercise. This exercise is very effective in turning back your muscle in motion. It also lessens the phantom sensation in your arms. 

  1. Start facing the wall. Make sure that your toes are facing the wall.
  2. Use your unaffected arm to reach the fastest position and mark that point with the tape. This tape will be the goal of your affected arm. 

3. Place your hand on the wall and crawl your fingers at the wall as far as possible. Try to crawl both hands evenly together. If you feel comfortable in the higher position but not in pain, do the deep breathing exercise. Return from the starting position by crawling your fingers back down the wall.

4. Repeat the wall crawl 10 times.

5. Each time you crawl try to aim a bit higher. And on the 10th crawl use a tape to mark your progress. It will allow you to see the improvements each time you do the crawling exercise.

post mastectomy exercise hand positioning

Sidewall Crawl

  1. Face your unaffected arm to the wall and crawl your arms as high as you can. Mark the position with tape. This will be the reference point or your goal.
  2. Position your affected arm against the wall facing on the other side.
  3. Try to crawl your hand at the wall and aim at the highest point but not in pain. If you feel uncomfortable, do the deep breathing exercise and return your arm to a starting position.
  4. Repeat this exercise 10 times. It shouldn’t be painful in doing this exercise. It is normal to feel some tightness in your chest. Try to focus on your breathing until the tightness decreases. Breath normally throughout this exercise and not holding your breath.
  5. Do not turn your body toward the wall when doing this exercise. Keep your body at 90 degrees to the wall.

These post mastectomy exercise are just a few to start. It is important to talk to your doctor before starting any exercises to know what’s the right program fits you.

  1. If you are losing your balance, start falling and getting weaker.
  2. Your pain doesn’t go away and getting worst.
  3. Have a feeling of a new sensation in your arm, with new aching, tightness, and heaviness.
  4. Have headaches, blurred vision, and dizziness, numbness, and tingling in your arms or chest.
  5. If your swelling gets worse and find it unusual.

Reference: Visit this site to know more about post mastectomy exercise

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