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Heart Surgery

Activity After Surgery

Based on what your surgeon prefers and what you may need, chest binders or bras (women) may be suggested. For some people supporting the breasts by wearing a chest binder or front-closing bra may help lower pain or discomfort after surgery and chest discomfort while you’re healing.


  • If you don’t move enough you’ll become stiff and sore. It’s important to be active after surgery.
  • Over the next few days you’ll start taking 4 or 5 short walks a day in the hallway.
  • The physical therapist or occupational therapist will show you how to move in ways that lower the stress on your breastbone.
  • Talk with your healthcare team about the best ways for you to move after surgery

Recovery Exercises

The exercises below will help you move easier, get your full muscle movement back, and cut down the muscle aches and pains after surgery.

  • Start these exercises right after surgery and do them for the next 6 weeks.
  • Do the exercises 2 times a day at a slow and comfortable pace.
  • Do each exercise 3 times.
  • Add 1 repetition every 2 or 3 days, until you can repeat the exercise 10 times.
  • Never hold your breath, bear down, or strain while doing these exercises.

These exercises shouldn’t hurt your incision—you should only feel a slight stretching. Stop if you feel pain.

1. Shrug and Roll Shoulders

  • Sit up straight, hands in your lap. Shrug your shoulders up and down.
  • Sit up straight, hands in your lap. Roll your shoulders forward, then back.
Shrug and Roll

2. Neck Stretches

  • Sit up straight, hands in lap. Bend your head forward, dropping your chin to your chest. Return to centre.
  • Turn your head slowly to look over your right shoulder and return to centre.
  • Turn your head slowly to look over your left shoulder and return to centre.
Neck Stretch
Stop if the neck exercises make you dizzy.

3. Torso Twist

  • Sit up straight and clasp your arms across your chest.
  • Gently turn your trunk first to one side and then the other. Stop if you feel pain.
Neck Stretch

4. Side Stretch

  • Sit up straight, clasp arms across your chest. Bending from the waist, lean to the right.
  • Return to centre. Repeat on the left side.
Side Stretch

Note: You can stand to do this exercise if your balance is good.

5. Elbow Circles

  • Bring your elbows up to shoulder height and put your hands on your shoulders.
  • Make 3 forward circles with the tips of your elbows.
  • Make 3 backward circles with the tips of your elbows.
Elbow Circles

Emotions and Stress after Surgery

Mood changes, feeling anxious, sad, detached, irritated, or depressed are all common after surgery. These changes might start while you’re still in hospital. Sometimes the feelings can last for weeks. Please discuss how you’re feeling at your follow up doctor visits.

If you or your family are having trouble coping talk with your healthcare team. You can also ask to speak to a spiritual care advisor.

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