Exercising After a Mastectomy: After Your Visit

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Your Care Instructions

During a mastectomy, your doctor removed your breast and the lymph nodes from under your arm. You may feel some pain going down your arm. Your shoulder and arm may be stiff and hard to move. You may also have some loss of feeling there.

Take good care of your arm on the side of your surgery. Your doctor or physiotherapist can teach you arm exercises that will let you move your arm as you always have. But be careful not to overuse your arm. For example, do not lift anything heavy with your arm until your doctor says it is okay. The basic exercises described here will help you start moving your arm.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It’s also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Before you start to exercise

  • Do not start to exercise until your doctor says it is okay. If you are not sure how to do an exercise, do not start it until your doctor or physiotherapist shows you exactly how to do it.
  • Stop exercising if your arm or chest area hurts or begins to swell. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms. Also call your doctor or nurse call line if you have problems doing an exercise or it hurts.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing while you do your exercises.
  • Use your arm for your usual activities, such as brushing your teeth and hair.

Getting started with exercises after surgery

Shoulder relaxation exercises

  • Shoulder shrugs: While you sit or stand, lift your shoulders up toward your ears. Relax your shoulders, and let them drop to their usual position.
  • Shoulder rolls: While you sit or stand, roll your shoulders from front to back and up to down.

Shoulder blade stretch

  1. While you sit, stretch your arms behind your back, and grasp your hands together.
  2. Hold for 5 seconds.
  3. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Overhead reach

  1. While you sit or stand, clasp your hands together and extend your elbows.
  2. Lift your arms up toward your head.
  3. Hold for 3 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Shoulder pinch

  1. While you sit or stand, clasp your hands behind your head.
  2. Bring your elbows back, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Keep your shoulders back and down.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Wall climb

  1. While you stand, face a wall, with your hands on the wall.
  2. Walk your fingers up the wall until you feel a stretch.
  3. Hold that position for 5 seconds.
  4. Slowly walk your fingers back down to the starting position.
  5. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Elbow circles

  1. While you sit or stand, put your right hand on your right shoulder, and your left hand on your left shoulder.
  2. Raise your elbows until you feel a stretch.
  3. Make circles with your elbows. Start small and then make larger circles.
  4. Change direction with your circles.
  5. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: July 26, 2016