Moving after a Mastectomy: February 17, 2017
After any surgery it’s important for patients to get up and move. But after a mastectomy, physical therapists say rebuilding muscle and strength is vital to their recovery.
Patricia Curr, a physical therapist with Lee Health, works with women after a mastectomy. “We have patients that are young moms that come in and they have to lift children, do any type of caretaking, grocery shopping, go back to work, but we want to make sure they know what their internal limits are. They know what they can and cannot do, especially in the beginning.”
As soon as two weeks after surgery, Curr works with women on reaching and lifting. “After having healed appropriately they’ll come in for physical therapy and we’ll teach them some body mechanics and some stretches.”
But frequently, patients will start physical therapy weeks before their surgery. This helps patients learn the exercises and what their limitations will be after surgery. “You can’t just go back to it because you can injure the site, you can injure the tissue, or other body parts, so if we can get them in sooner just to give them that instruction they will have that knowledge,” said Curr.
After surgery, women may experience tightness in the arm, neck, and back. Physical therapists can help patients work through that pain. “Sometimes they develop what’s called cording. It’s very tight tissue through the arm pit down into the arm. You can actually see a little cord that pops up, it’s very tight and it can be very painful and limiting,” said Curr.
Physical therapists can teach patients safe movements to help them get back to their normal routine. “You can go back to life. It’s doable, it’s definitely doable,” said Curr.