Women may undergo various types of breast surgery for different reasons. However, any of these procedures can affect how well you can move your shoulders and arms, or do your daily routines, like dressing, bathing, and combing your hair. No matter what type of surgery you have, it’s important to do exercises after it to restore full motion of your arms and shoulders and get back to your normal activities.
It’s very important to talk to your doctor before starting any exercises so that you can decide on a program that’s suitable for you. You need to allow your body to heal. You should start by doing some gentle exercises and slowly build up to full movement over several weeks. Remember to listen to your body and don’t go over its limitations. If you experience extreme fatigue or pain, stop exercising and contact your doctor. Here you can find advice on when to ask for help.
Two weeks after surgery
Procedures such as breast reduction surgery or mastopexy usually require two or more weeks for a full recovery. During this period you can start with some exercises to prevent developing stiffness in the arms and shoulders. Consider the following:
Shoulder rolls – Relax your shoulders. Roll your shoulders forwards and then slowly backwards. While rolling them backwards, squeeze the shoulder blades together at the back. Take a deep breath as you do each exercise. Do 5 of these and gradually build up to 10 every hour during first 3 weeks.
Arm swings – With your arms hanging down slightly in front of you, slowly draw imaginary circles and lines on the floor. Start with small circles and gradually increase the size. Start with 5 and build up to 10 in each direction. Repeat every 2 or 3 hours for the next 3 weeks.
Body turns – Cross your arms across your body so that your hands are placed lightly on your shoulders. Slowly turn to look to the left and then to the right. Start with 5 and work up to 10 in each direction. Repeat every 2 or 3 hours over the next 3 weeks.
In the first two weeks you can do light activities, such as face washing or eating, but don’t lift your arms above your shoulders. Try to maintain a good posture. Take easy walks that will make you feel better.
Three to four weeks after surgery
You should continue with the exercises you have been doing, but now you can also add the exercises below to restore the full movement in your shoulders. Start with 5 and build up to 10 every 2-3 hours.
Walk your fingers up the wall – Stand facing a wall and walk your fingers up, slowly. It is normal to experience tightness, but it should not be painful. If it is, consult the doctor.
Lying on the beach – Lie on your back. Put your fingers lightly on your ears, with your elbows pointing up towards the ceiling. Slowly let your elbows fall back so that you end up with your head on your arms, much like you do when you’re lying on the beach.
Chest stretch – Stand up and keep your arms relaxed and straight by your side. Then slowly take your arms behind you, as if you are trying to touch your hands together at the back.
In this phase you can start with regular things such as housework, but be careful with the amount. You can usually start driving, provided that you can do an emergency stop and manage the gear stick and handbrake.
After six weeks
After 6 weeks you will be able to do most of the normal activities. Keep doing the exercises, even when you’ve regained full movement in your shoulders. Keep walking and gradually increase the distance. Try to maintain the fitness level you had before surgery.
Post-operative recovery can sometimes be tiring and difficult, but with proper exercising you will quickly get back to normal. Remember to take care of your body and ask for medical opinion whenever it is necessary.