Heal Well: Exercise Post Breast Cancer Surgery

Breast Cancer Awareness month is a reminder for each of us to make healthy living choices for prevention, get regular mammograms and breast examinations. Breast cancer—being a leading cause of cancer among women (less so for men) in the United States—has touched many of us at Pacific Northwest Pilates. Every October, we celebrate our friends and family who’ve battled breast cancer and are with us today. We remember and miss those who’ve been lost to this terrible disease.

As movement professionals we need to be mindful and educated about how to care for those who have breast cancer and have had surgery, a breast biopsy and/or reconstruction. Research shows that early, gentle exercise post-surgery can help restore range of motion and the healing process. Exercises that help to move the affected arm and shoulder decrease the side effects of surgery and help you get back to regular activity.

These three exercises are commonly recommended post surgery.

Remember to speak with your doctor or healthcare team before beginning any exercise program.


Open Elbows

This exercise helps to increase the movement in the front of your chest and shoulder. It may take weeks before your affected side will be able to touch the floor. These can be done on a bed instead of on the floor. Be sure to breathe throughout the exercise. If you feel pain in your lower back, place your feet on a slightly higher surface.



Ball Roll

This exercise will help to open the chest and encourage the shoulder blade to move towards the spine (retract). To diminish the range of motion, perform this exercise using a smaller ball or by simply sliding the hand along the table. This exercise may be done more comfortably by sitting against the back of a straight chair.



Ball on Wall

This exercise will help you gain range of motion in the latissumus dorsi (lats) and pectorals (pecs). Move away from the wall to diminish the range of motion and progress closer to the wall over a serious of consistent weeks of exercise. Try to open the arm pit and avoid gripping in the shoulder as you do the exercise. You want to allow the scapulae to move (upwardly rotate) as the arm goes up. As always, breathe!

*Image: Pink Ribbon from Pixaby

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