Exercise Guidelines After Breast Reconstruction

By Ravi Tandon, M.D. on June 04, 2019

Senior citizens exercising togetherIn many ways, the breast reconstruction recovery process is just as important as the surgery itself. Patients are given ample instructions on the do’s and don’ts after their surgery to help promote a fast recovery and to prevent post-surgical complications. Dr. Ravi Tandon can provide this detailed information to breast reconstruction patients during a consultation at practice serving the New Orleans, LA area.

Exercise is a key part of breast reconstruction recovery. Let’s consider some basic exercise guidelines for patients in the weeks after their procedure.

Exercise Is Crucial to Recovery

In order to make a full recovery after breast reconstruction surgery, exercise is going to be crucial to your success. Exercise will restore the full range of motion and the chest and arms, and will also help prevent complications from occurring after you’ve undergone surgery.

With that in mind, it’s important that patients take things slowly. Healing takes time, and it’s important that you give your body the time it needs to recover. Gradually increasing physical activity over the course of six weeks is ideal.

Physical Activities to Avoid in the First Two Weeks

After your breast reconstruction surgery, you’ll want to avoid the following physical activities:

  • Raising your arms above the height of your shoulders
  • Placing your arms behind your back to stretch the chest
  • Lifting objects heavier than a few pounds
  • Pushing your body weight up from a prone position
  • Pushing and pulling heavy objects

All of these activities can put a lot of stress on the chest as you recover. After two weeks have passed, you can slowly return to some of these activities using caution and discretion.

The Importance of Light Walking as You Heal

After undergoing any sort of cosmetic or reconstructive surgery at our New Orleans area practice, we always recommend patients walk a little bit each day. This promotes circulation and prevents the formation of blood clots. This is especially important in the first week or so after surgery when patients will typically be resting for most of the day.

Exercises for the First Week of Recovery

By the third day after surgery, very light exercises will be approved. Here are a few post-breast reconstruction exercise suggestions from The American Cancer Society:

  • Deep Breathing - Laying flat on your back, take a deep, slow breath to fill your chest and abdomen. Exhale slowly. Repeat this pattern four to five times. Perform the deep breathing exercise roughly six times a day to promote chest movement.
  • Light Hand and Arm Exercise - Laying flat on your back, prop your hands and arms up on pillows so they are higher than the level of your heart. Open and close the hand on the side of your body operated on 15 to 25 times. Next, with your hand relaxed, bend and straight your elbow.

Exercises for the Second Week of Recovery

The second week after surgery, patients can perform a few more light exercises based on their surgeon’s instructions. Some simple recommendations include:

  • Shoulder Shrugs - With shoulders relaxed, slowly raise your shoulders to your ears, and then slowly lower them into a rest position.
  • Shoulder Rolls - With your shoulders relaxed, rolls your shoulders forward slowly and then roll them back slowly. Squeeze the shoulder blades together when rolling your shoulders back.
  • Shoulder Raises - Touch your fingertips to your shoulders so your elbows extend out to the sides. Raise the elbows to where they are comfortable. Slowly rotate your elbows clockwise and then counter clockwise.

Exercises for the Third and Fourth Week of Recovery

By the third and fourth weeks after breast reconstruction, patients will start increasing their shoulder and arm mobility. Some patients may want to take things at a slower pace. The variety of exercises during his point is much wider.

Exercises during this time will typically involve raising the hands above the shoulders and the head. This will help stretch the chest and shoulder area, building back some strength and mobility.

Returning to a Normal Exercise Routine Around Week Six

After about six weeks, breast reconstruction patients can return to some normal exercise routines. Light cardio and stretching tends to be best, while patients may want to be more conservative with a return to strenuous cardio, weight training, and strength training. During follow-up visits to our New Orleans area surgery center, we can offer insight into ideal exercise routines.

Learn More About Breast Reconstruction Surgery

For more information about breast reconstruction surgery and what you can expect during the recovery process, be sure to contact a skilled cosmetic reconstructive surgeon. You can reach the Tandon Plastic Surgery team by phone at (504) 455-1000.

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