Exercise Following Breast Surgery

22 Jul 2019

Many women who undergo breast surgery struggle with how and when to begin exercising.

In many instances the only instruction women receive is to avoid exercise for 6 weeks after the surgery. This often leaves women confused as to how much they should use their arm, what movement is safe and when and how they can return to activities they did prior to their surgery.

Some women also question whether they will ever be able to return to activities they previously loved at all.?

There is very strong research that supports the benefits of exercise for women undergoing breast surgery, whether the surgery is preventative or the result of a cancer diagnosis.

The benefits include:

    • Increased energy
    • Improved strength
    • Improved immune function
    • And timely return to normal activities

It also:

    • reduces nausea associated with some forms of cancer treatment
    • reduces fatigue
    • and assists with the management of pain

As a result, women report:

    • improved body composition and appearance
    • improved body image and self-confidence
    • and reduced feelings of depression and anxiety

So how to begin?

It is important for women to ask their surgeon if there are any specific precautions they need to take but generally speaking gentle movement exercises can commence very soon after surgery. These exercises aim to restore full movement to the shoulder, neck and spine.

If a women has not seen a Physiotherapist in hospital it is a good idea to find a therapist who has a special interest in this area. The Physiotherapist can do an assessment and provide the appropriate exercises to restore normal movement.

After 6 weeks a slow and steady strengthening program is very important to build strength, and self confidence.

The goal should always be to assist each and every women to return to the exercise, sport or activity that they love. The benefits are physical, functional and psychological and contribute greatly to a women’s quality of life.

Written by, Simone Paterson

Certified Lymphoedema Therapist | Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist and Pilates | Women in Focus Physiotherapy