Physical activity post-mastectomy recovery and treatment, strengthens the individual’s body and mind. Several exercises can be done the first day after latissimus dorsi flap surgery (muscle, fat and skin has been surgically taken from the person’s upper back), surgery without reconstruction and surgery with reconstruction using a tissue expander - with clearance of doctor. The range of motion restriction for exercise may be medically instructed as 45, 60 or 90 degrees.
Exercise can be performed after breast surgery without reconstruction. Limited movement and motion will be impacted on an individual basis of the person’s surgery. Beginning exercise with deep breathing can lessen tightness near incisions. Sitting upright, slowly breathing in through the nose and exhaling through the mouth may be repeated to the comfort of the individual.
Forward and backward shoulder rolls stretch chest and shoulder muscles. At first, backward direction shoulder rolls may cause chest tightness. Arm circles are another workout and should be done one arm at a time as not to pressure the chest. The position of the feet should be equal to the distance of the shoulders to ensure balance. Forward and backward motion arm circles move by the shoulder muscles and the elbows must be straight - this stretching motion heals and prevents back pain. Forward and side wall crawls are two exercises promoting range of motion, muscle control and flexibility. In combination with deep breathing, both wall exercises engage and strengthen the upper body. Some exercise physiologists may recommend not to work out the chest muscles after reconstructive surgery (e.g. push-ups).
Fitness retreats and local fitness classes or programs are another way to exercise and build social connections. Retreats hold in-depth workshops helping women relax, rejuvenate and recognize their resilience in body and mind. Caregivers are also welcome to participate in wellness retreats. Hundreds of exercises post-mastectomy can target the biceps, triceps, forearms, quads, abdomen etc. Prior to working out consult with a medical professional about specific ideas of exercise.
Currently, Barbells for Boobs (www.barbellsforboobs.org) is a nonprofit organization advocating for increased clinical research to educate breast cancer survivors in safe fitness and physical activity plans. Barbells for Boobs’ mission is to reduce women’s breast cancer risk, the effects of breast cancer treatment on women and recurrence.
“Exercises After Breast Surgery.” Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, www.mskcc.org/cancer-care/patient-education/exercises-after-breast-surgery.
“About Us.” Barbells for Boobs, www.barbellsforboobs.org/.