The amount of time required before you can exercise after breast surgery depends on a variety of factors. This includes the type of breast surgery performed and how carefully you follow post-operative care instructions. Pain and stiffness can cause weakness and limit the movement of your arm and shoulder. Exercise is advised to help increase your shoulder and arm range of motion. Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.
To help heal the pectoralis chest muscles after surgery, try these 5 post-operative exercises!
Types of Breast Surgery
Breast surgery is divided into three subcategories: augmentation, reduction, and reconstruction.
- Breast Augmentation - Enhances the appearance, size, and contour of a woman's breasts. Some women consider augmentation after size loss associated with pregnancy and lactation. Breast augmentation is performed with implants that can be placed over or under the pectoralis chest muscle. The incision can be placed in the axilla (armpit), areola or lower breast
- Breast Reconstruction - Recreates appearance, contour, and volume of the breast. Some women choose to have reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy or lumpectomy. If an implant is used, the implant is sized to match the opposite breast. A breast also can be recreated using a woman's own tissue. Tissue options for breast reconstruction include the back muscle and skin or a segment of a buttocks
- Breast Reduction - Excess weight can cause neck and back pain, skin irritation, bra strap indentations, numbness, or weakness. This procedure involves removal of excess skin, fat, and glandular tissue
What to Expect After Surgery
After the surgery, you should expect to feel tired and sore. Your surgeon will give you an oral painkiller to ease you through the first few days. You should expect to reduce any strenuous activity for two or three weeks after breast augmentation surgery, including limiting the number of times you raise your hands above your head. This reduction in activity includes exercising and lifting heavy objects.
You may be discharged with one or more drains in place. This small tube is put in the wound to remove extra fluid from the surgery site while it heals. The doctor will decide when the drains can be safely removed depending on how much fluid is collecting each day. Follow your doctor’s instructions on wound and drain care. It may take as long as 1 to 2 years for tissues to completely heal and scars to fade (the scars never go away completely).
For women with breast cancer, you may experience swelling after surgery. This swelling, also known as post-operative edema or lymphadema, can decrease in the weeks immediately after treatment. If you are concerned about your level of swelling, consult with your doctor.
Also, be sure to ask what kind of support garments you should wear. Talk with your surgeon about the type of bra to wear – sometimes it will depend on the type of surgery you had. After you heal, underwires and lace in your bra might feel uncomfortable if they press on scars or rub your skin.
When Can I Exercise?
The recovery period following breast surgery is 4-8 weeks. Patients must be mindful of the healing process and avoid certain activities that might cause injury. Your doctor might suggest you see a physical therapist or occupational therapist to create an at-home rehab program.
It is important to keep moving with light activity, like short walks or stretching. Light activity after surgery will promote blood circulation and reduce the risk of blood clots. Proper blood flow can also speed up the healing process.
After about 2-3 weeks, most patients can return to the gym to ride a stationary bike, walk on an inclined treadmill, or walk longer distances outside. Light cardio can be slowly introduced, allowing patients to get their heart rate up. Continue avoiding strenuous upper-body activities, like swimming, strength training, or push-ups. High impact workouts and heavy lifting should be avoided for at least 6-8 weeks, or until cleared by your surgeon.
5 Post-Operative Exercises
It’s important to get the arm and shoulder moving again after breast surgery. Exercises help decrease the side effects of your surgery and get you back to your usual activities. Prior to performing these post-operative exercises, make sure to consult with your surgeon. If exercises that were previously within your capability suddenly prove too difficult, rest for a few more days before trying again.