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Getting back to exercise after breast surgery

It is important to do exercises after surgery, no matter what type of surgery you had. Exercise will help you get back to your normal daily activities quicker and will help to decrease any side effects of your surgery. Aerobic exercise has been shown to possibly reduce the risk of cancer reoccurrence and to increase quality of life.

Try these simple exercises from Carrie Waldrop, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital’s Fitness Center, and start feeling better today.

Exercises:  Do each exercise 5 to 7 times, twice a day.

Wand Exercise: Helps increase the forward motion of your shoulders. (You will need a yardstick, broom handle, or other stick–like object.)

  • Hold the wand in both hands with your palms facing up.
  • Lift the wand up over head as far as you can.
  • Hold for 5 seconds.
  • Lower and repeat 5 to 7 times.

Side Bending:  Helps increase movement of your lower body.

  • Sit in a chair and clasp your hands together in front of you. Lift your arms slowly over your head, straightening your arms.
  • When your arms are over your head, curve your lower body to the right, bend at your waist and keep your arms overhead. You should feel your side stretching. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Return to starting position and do the same thing to the left side.
  • Repeat 5 to 7 times.

 Elbow Winging:  Helps increase the movement in the front of your chest and shoulder. 

  • Lie on your back, clasp your hands behind your neck with your elbows pointing toward the ceiling.
  • Move your elbows apart and down toward the bed or floor.
  • Repeat 5 to 7 times.

Chest Wall Stretch:  Helps stretch your chest.

  • Stand facing a corner with your toes about 8 to 10 inches from the corner.
  • Bend your elbows and put your forearms on the wall, one on each side of the corner. Your elbows should be shoulder height.
  • Keep your arms and feet in place and move your chest toward the corner. 
  • You should feel a stretch across your chest and shoulders. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat 5 to 7 times.

Shoulder Blade Stretch:  Helps increase your shoulder blade movement.

  • Sit in a chair very close to a table with your back against the back of the chair.
  • Place the unaffected arm on the table with your elbow bent and palm down, for support. This arm should not move during the exercise.
  • Place the affected arm on the table, palm down, with your elbow straight.
  • Slide the affected arm forward, toward the opposite side of the table. Do this without moving your lower body.  (You should feel your shoulder blade move as you do this.)
  • If both arms are affected, make sure to stretch both sides.
  • Relax your arm and repeat 5 to 7 times. 

Remember, you should stop exercising and talk to your doctor if: you have pain that gets worse; you have unusual swelling or swelling gets worse; you get weaker and start losing your balance; you have new heaviness in your arm; you experience headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, new numbness, or tingling in your arms or chest.

It’s best to start exercising slowly and increase your activity level as you are able. Before you start an exercise program, make sure you speak with your oncologist.

Keep in mind that Piedmont Fayette’s Cancer Wellness Center offers complementary services and programs to anyone affected by cancer at any phase in his or her cancer journey. 

Some classes include: Gentle Yoga, Massage Therapy, Drumming, Art and Healing, and Zumba®. 

For more information about these and other classes, visit the Piedmont Cancer Center.

Carrie Waldrop is an exercise physiologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital’s Fitness Center. She graduated from Georgia State University with a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology. 

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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