Surgeries often leave effects that you might not have anticipated. You might be ready for scars and stitches, but the loss of strength and mobility in some parts of the body might take you by surprise. Surgery for breast cancer is no different.
“Patients who’ve had breast cancer reconstruction [say] their bodies have changed and they’re uncomfortable, so they may not want to move,” says R. Brannon Claytor, MD, plastic surgeon at Claytor Noone Plastic Surgery in Pennsylvania.
Stiffness and soreness are to be expected, and you will definitely need rest and time to gain full strength back. However, to regain your mobility, some stretching and gentle movements are crucial. “If you don’t move part of your body for a period of time, you’re going to get stiff,” says Dr. Claytor.
Plus, getting back on your feet after surgery for breast cancer can help your digestion, improve your circulation, and help prevent blood clots in your legs, according to the American Cancer Society.
To avoid injury or hurting the surgery site, Dr. Claytor recommends a particular stretch to his patients that they can do safely and independently during recovery: Stand facing a wall and reach your arms in front of you. Slowly guide your fingers slowly up the wall.
Note your progress each time, and try to reach a centimeter higher than you did before to improve your range of motion gradually and safely. “You don’t need to take this to the point where you’re causing yourself pain,” says Dr. Claytor.
Over time, this stretch can help you regain your previous level of activity and range of motion. While you’re recovering, here are tips for getting dressed after breast cancer surgery.