6- Giving you the tools: Physical Therapy After Mastectomy

Road Map to Recovery
  1. Mastectomy
  2. 6 weeks of tissue healing
  3. Rehab to normalize shoulder mobility and core strength –> Return to function
  4. Reconstructive breast surgery
  5. Rehab to continue shoulder strengthening and activity specific –> Return to activity/sport/work

I got a mastectomy… Can I get back to doing things I love? 

After a mastectomy and/or following cancer treatments, one can experience loss of both mobility in their upper body and core strength. Most patients also don’t realize how incisions can take a minimum of 6 weeks to heal, which can discourage movement and quality of life. 

Scar tissue formation from a mastectomy, lumpectomy, or lymph node removals can be painful and can restrict movement in the shoulder, even leading to serious orthopedic side effects like frozen shoulder.   

We’re here to help! 

With physical therapy, one can improve upper extremity mobility and strength baseline, so their future reconstructive surgeries have better recovery and faster outcomes. Exercises to maintain shoulder range of motion and arm mobility may be prescribed as early as 1 week after surgery. Patients may also experience nerve pain caused by scar tissue impinging on nerves. Manual therapy can help restore sensation and relieve nerve pain too!

What should I expect at physical therapy? 

As part of a post op mastectomy treatment plan, your physical therapist will utilize different manual techniques to improve the scar tissue from the incision and increase upper extremity range of motion, while also prescribing individualized exercises to help restore strength and promote good circulation. As rehabilitation progresses, these exercises may be modified to meet new goals such as returning to a sport!

Physical Therapy as part of a mastectomy treatment plan can have the following benefits:

  • Improved upper extremity range of motion
  • Improved upper extremity strength
  • Improved functional mobility (dressing, driving, reaching, etc.) 
  • Improved posture and core strength
  • Decreased pain at the surgical site
  • Decreased swelling on the affected side
  • Improved sensation at the surgical site
  • Improve scar tissue mobility
  • Neuromuscular reeducate affected tissues
  • Reduce fears of surgery
  • Provide a therapeutic environment and psychosocial approach

What does a typical rehab session look like?

At MOTI, each patient will receive a 1 hour evaluation which will begin with getting a thorough medical history of current and past procedures, assessing your posture, measuring your upper body and spinal range of motion, and testing your core and arm strength. Next, your therapist will explain to you their findings and will provide some treatment to address any impairments found during the assessment. Your therapist will create and explain your plan of care, designed just for you and your needs. Additionally, your therapist will design and explain your customized home exercise program, which they will also email to you for independent maintenance of your rehab.

If you have more questions, please book an appointment with Dr. Ann DeGrey, PT, DPT, SCS or Dr. Lei Lee, PT, DPT for more information and to develop a plan!

Request an Appointment Online, or Contact Us