Exercise after surgeries and therapies

Life certainly was different B.C., and I don’t mean Before Christ – I mean before cancer! Surely your beliefs, inspirations, goals and measures of achievement have all been turned upside down after the diagnosis of your breast cancer, including the persons surrounding you. There are, however, ways to take the matter in hand such as this very magazine, Buddies for Life, offering much needed support groups, and of course there are various other options to take such as visiting a counsellor, therapist, psychologist, a priest and the list goes on. Ultimately your life is sitting in your hands. The fore mentioned organisations and therapists are not with you 24/7, you are – it will be up to you to gather all the loose ends following the aftermath of your surgeries and treatments. I am sure you will find yourself sorting through your beliefs and searching for reasons to why? You also may be seeking new goals and inspirations and I encourage you to do so with a barre of achievement that is realistic.

After your surgeries and adjuvant therapies, you still may be experiencing some difficulties, whether is be a lack of range of movement (usually due to Axillary dissection), numbness (usually due to damage of the intercostobrachial nerve), loss of spinal stability, stiffness, infection or lymphedema. Perhaps you had a single or double mastectomy, with or without immediate reconstruction, or perhaps you had an autologous technique surgery such as the Latflap or the Tramflap… Whatever the technique, they are not always free of complications and you will therefore need further therapy such as Post Rehabilitative exercises to help correct your individual side effects.

Most exercising should not begin until the adjuvant therapies are completed to your physician’s satisfaction. I strongly urge everyone to acquire consent before beginning a program suitable for your current needs. In this issue, I would like to present a few exercises that would be suitable for all surgical techniques. The stretching and strengthening exercises should work in conjunction with each other to retrieve a muscular balance in and around the effected areas of your surgeries.

Firstly, try ARM CIRCLES LYING SUPINE. Lie on a mat or comfortable piece of flooring on your back. Your legs may be bent with your feet on the floor, which is kinder to your back, or your legs may be strait in front of you with your feet relaxed. Inhale and slowly take the arms towards the ceiling in a straight line and always wider than your torso. See how far you can take them over your head. Next, try to circle the arms out to your sides and back to your hips again. If it feels more difficult or stiff to circle your arms around rather than upwards, (each person will be different), then circle in the other direction first. Keep the back flat on the floor if the legs are bent. If you are doing this exercise with straight legs, try not to lift the lumbar area too far off the floor, so in other words, strive for a neutral spine. Ten repetitions in each direction should be sufficient.

The second stretching exercise is the CHILD’S POSE, with or without the ball.Roll out slowly, gradually increasing your distance and then roll back in. I suggest beginning this particular exercise without the ball, as the ball can be quite difficult to manage if the muscles in front of the chest are not yet strong enough to control the ball. Obviously, if you have problems with your knees, do not sit too far back on your heels, or safer, choose another stretching exercise.

For the strengthening exercises, you will need a Dynaband. First try the lat pulls (to strengthen the areas around and under your shoulders, as well as your sides). Place the band under one foot that should be placed hip distance in width and in front of the other foot. Gently pull the arms down, in, and back towards the hips as you exhale. As you master this exercise, the arms can be pulled further back into a shoulder extension.

The second exercise, also done with the Dynaband, is the OVERHEAD STRETCH with LATERAL PULL. Standing with your legs wider than your hips, take the arms overhead without causing excessive discomfort or pain. You will have to work towards achieving the full stretch overhead. Inhale to begin, and exhale as you ease into your lateral bend. You may stay in this bend for an additional breath and then try to bend further. Work in a coronal plane of movement, watching that your torso does not fall forwards or backwards. When erect, you may also pull the band gently apart.

The exercises you have read about and hopefully tried today, are a mere few that can be done to accommodate your recuperation.

I encourage you to find a certified practitioner to assist you in developing your repertoire and I am sure you will feel encouraged when you begin to develop a sense of balance once again in your new life.

Explore and enjoy!


Heidi Wright is certified in Pilates Mat, Allegro, Studio and Post Rehabilitation with Polestar Pilates and Pilates elder Lolita San Miguel. She is also a member and certified instructor with Pilates Method Alliance and a Post Rehabilitation practitioner with Pink Ribbon.

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