Getting back to exercise after breast surgery

Getting back to exercise after breast surgery

Once you are cleared by your doctor, it is important to do exercises after surgery, no matter what type of surgery you had. Exercise will help you get back to your normal daily activities quicker and will help to decrease any side effects of your surgery. Aerobic exercise has been shown to possibly reduce the risk of cancer reoccurrence and to increase quality of life.

Try these simple exercises from Carrie Waldrop, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital’s Fitness Center and start feeling better today.

Exercises:  Do each exercise 5 to 7 times, twice a day.

Wand exercise: Helps increase the forward motion of your shoulders. (You will need a yardstick, broom handle, or other stick–like object.)

  • Hold the wand in both hands with your palms facing up.

  • Lift the wand up over head as far as you can.

  • Hold for 5 seconds.

  • Lower and repeat 5 to 7 times.

Side bending:  Helps increase movement of your lower body.

  • Sit in a chair and clasp your hands together in front of you. Lift your arms slowly over your head, straightening your arms.

  • When your arms are over your head, curve your lower body to the right, bend at your waist and keep your arms overhead. You should feel your side stretching. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

  • Return to starting position and do the same thing to the left side.

  • Repeat 5 to 7 times.

 Elbow winging:  Helps increase the movement in the front of your chest and shoulder. 

  • Lie on your back, clasp your hands behind your neck with your elbows pointing toward the ceiling.

  • Move your elbows apart and down toward the bed or floor.

  • Repeat 5 to 7 times.

Chest wall stretch:  Helps stretch your chest.

  • Stand facing a corner with your toes about 8 to 10 inches from the corner.

  • Bend your elbows and put your forearms on the wall, one on each side of the corner. Your elbows should be shoulder height.

  • Keep your arms and feet in place and move your chest toward the corner. 

  • You should feel a stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

  • Return to the starting position and repeat 5 to 7 times.

Shoulder blade stretch:  Helps increase your shoulder blade movement.

  • Sit in a chair very close to a table with your back against the back of the chair.

  • Place the unaffected arm on the table with your elbow bent and palm down, for support. This arm should not move during the exercise.

  • Place the affected arm on the table, palm down, with your elbow straight.

  • Slide the affected arm forward, toward the opposite side of the table. Do this without moving your lower body.  (You should feel your shoulder blade move as you do this.)

  • If both arms are affected, make sure to stretch both sides.

  • Relax your arm and repeat 5 to 7 times. 

Remember, you should stop exercising and talk to your doctor if you experience:

  • Blurred vision

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Loss of balance

  • New heaviness in your arm

  • New numbness or tingling in your arms or chest

  • Pain that gets worse

  • Unusual swelling or swelling gets worse

  • Weakness

It’s best to start exercising slowly and increase your activity level as you are able. Before you start an exercise program, make sure you speak with your oncologist.

Learn more about breast cancer rehabilitation.


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