Physical Therapy After A Mastectomy
Structured physical therapy post op mastectomy has shown to improve range of motion and pain, short and long term. Immediately post-operative, it is important to give your body rest and time to heal noting that structures have been cut and moved. Meaning you do not want to have excessive arm and shoulder movements or use arms above shoulder level until the surgeon clears you (each surgeon may have their own post op instruction and precautions). With that being said, it is a good idea to walk around the house to maintain endurance and blood flow in the days following the operation. Your physical therapist will work with your surgeon to ensure specific precautions are followed while safely progressing the patient for effective and functional healing.
Although arms movements are usually restricted for 1-2 weeks after surgery, it is very important to focus on posture! Physical therapists are posture nuts! Avoiding hunching forward and rounding the back is key as one does not want to cause tightness in this poor postural alignment. Having good posture will also help with pain relief. In early healing, physical therapist can also be of assistance for recommendations for sleeping posture/positioning.
There is much evidence to support physical therapy and exercise can increase the rate of recovery after surgery, maximize range of motion, decrease tightness, reduce pain, improve quality of life, and decrease chemotherapy related fatigue. During Rehabilitation, your physical therapist will focus on increasing range of motion, regaining strength, reducing swelling and returning you to your prior level of function. During recovery, the physical therapist will ensure that nothing you are doing is increasing pain; they will monitor proper healing and incision recovery, and gradually help you return to all your favorite activities. The plan of care for recovery from a mastectomy is tailored and is not as aggressive or intense a, so have no fear you are in good hands!
Other aspects of treatment after mastectomy include management of scarring and fibrosis, lymphedema management, and balance recovery. Rehab and exercise is the ticket to returning to good health, feeling energized, and improving quality of life mentally and physically.