Best post mastectomy/reconstruction exercises you can do after surgery

Exercises to do after breast cancer surgery(Mastectomy)
Image credit: Sarton physical therapy 

Most women affected with breast cancer undergo some or the other kind of breast surgery for the removal of cancer which is commonly known as Mastectomy

Mastectomy is the medical term for the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely. 

(Source: Wikipedia)

This involves the reconstruction or the resection of a part or the entire breast tissue.

This reconstruction or resection process would normally leave behind a difficulty in physical movements of the hands and shoulders, which negatively affects daily activities, movements and the quality of life.

To help recover from this pain and discomfort, women who have undergone this breast surgery are recommended to exercise to help speed up the recovery process.

However, it is advisable to only begin after your doctor’s advice, who will usually recommend these after a week of your surgery. The most commonly prescribed exercises include:


The easiest exercise to begin can be walking, which helps to keep your body active and gets you moving.

Starts walking at a gradual pace for smaller distances initially and slowly increase the intensity and duration of your sessions as per your comfort.

Resume normal movements
Whether it is eating, cleaning, combing or dressing up, it is important that you resume normal movements of your arm to restore its flexibility and actions. However, one thing you must avoid is sleeping on your affected arm.

Raising your arm

This is the simplest exercise to reduce pain and swelling after the surgery.

You are simply required to raise the level of your arm above the level of your heart by placing it on a pillow by your sides.

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This needs to be done 2-3 times a day for a duration of 45 minutes for your treated side.

Arm movements

While you raise the level of your arm, you can start performing simple exercises like opening and closing your fist for about 15 to 25 times.

Bending your arm and then straightening your elbow can also be performed 3 to 4 times a day. These exercises will gradually help in the movement of your arm.

Breathing exercises

Not just your arms, you also feel a discomfort in the area of your chest following breast cancer surgery, which causes a difficulty in chest movements.

To deal with this, you are advised to perform deep breathing exercises at least 6 times a day, which will help you breathe better.

To perform this exercise, you must lie on your back and take a slow, deep breathe taking in as much air as you can until your lungs sufficiently expand.

Following this, you need to breathe out slowly. You can perform 4 to 5 repetitions in each session.

Stretching exercises

Many physicians recommend performing simple stretching exercises each day to help ease pain and movements.

Stretching prevents the formation of excessive scar tissue, which can interfere with movements.

Targeted exercises

The above exercises are generally prescribed to all women who have been treated to breast cancer and are thus easy to perform.

Additionally, most women also opt for additional exercises weeks after the surgery to improve their movements.

These exercises are:

Wand exercises-

These involve lifting a wand like object like a playing stick, broomstick or a handle, above the head with the help of both the hands.

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This exercise is performed in 5 to 7 reps while lying straight on the back while holding the raised wand in position for about 5 seconds.

Elbow winging exercise-

These are performed while lying on the ground and keeping your elbows folded under your neck as they face towards the ceiling.

To perform this, you are required to straighten your elbows so that they touch the level of the ground while still being clenched with each other in 5 to 7 reps.

Shoulder blade stretch-

Sit upright and place your hands on the table. Gradually, stretch your affected arm while keeping your palm faced down and touching the table.

Gradually, bring your arm back towards your body and repeat.

While exercising is important after a breast cancer surgery, it is essential that you do not overdo or strain yourself.

It is never recommended to begin exercising without your physician’s consult or continue even if you are uncomfortable. In case of fatigue, shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, it is important to call your doctor.

You must also note that these exercises must be performed gradually following your surgery.

About the author

Dr. Garvita Arora

Dr. Garvita Arora is a qualified dental surgeon and an avid writer. Her journey as a medical writer began in the year 2016 with dermatology blogs and she has previously written on different types of carcinomas. With 500+ articles and medical blogs, she has written on a variety of topics, which have been of immaculate interest to her readers. Exploring new domains, she has now collaborated with CancerBro as a guest writer and is immensely dedicated to her work.

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