woman exercising after breast surgery

Exercise after any type of breast surgery is linked to decreased chances of forming blood clots, decreased chances of developing depression and/or emotional mood swings, as well as reducing muscle atrophy and stiff joints.

Some surgeons are very conservative and advise their patients to do very little to nothing for 6 weeks following surgery. The more progressive surgeons value the benefits of a structured protocol such as The Chrysalis Method, which provides their patients with clear, safe instructions. 

John F. Kennedy said it best, “There are risks and costs to a program of action. But they are far less than the long-range risks and costs of comfortable inaction.”

However, there are also some restrictions when it comes to exercising after surgery in order to protect the surgical site and prevent certain complications. Please follow your surgeons specific restrictions first and foremost, but when planning for your surgery read below for some general guidelines typically given. 

Avoid Strenuous Activity for 4-6 Weeks After Surgery

The risks associated with performing any strenuous activities include bleeding, incisions opening, implants shifting, and impede implants from healing properly.

Most surgeons have general guidelines for limiting strenuous activity and heavy lifting after breast surgery. The limit on lifting, pushing, pulling is typically no more than 10 pounds.

If you have a baby, toddler, or child this goes for holding him/her as well. You will need to make modifications to care for your child/children during this acute phase of healing.

Samples of things weighing about 10 pounds:

  • Average 3-month-old baby (and older)
  • Gallon of milk
  • Sack of potatoes
  • Large bag of sugar/flour
  • Large watermelon
  • Most cats/dogs
  • Most vacuum cleaners
  • Laundry basket filled with towels or jeans, etc.)

NO jumping, running, bouncing. Even if you’re a marathon runner, you can’t do this until your surgeon gives you clearance.

Avoid specific abdominal exercises like crunches/planks/sit-ups/etc. At least some of your incisions will likely be beneath your breasts (depending on the procedure), so make sure to take caution when activating your stomach muscles.

I Know What I’m NOT Supposed to Do… but What Can I Do?

One of the reasons that The Chrysalis Method was created was because of this very question- what exercises can I do after breast surgery?

Many surgeons will give you a list of exercises or activities to avoid and for how long. But how do you know which activities are safe to do while recovering from breast surgery? Our founder and Doctor of Physical Therapy, Lauren Simpson, created the movements based on years of expertise working with surgical patients and talking with physicians of multiple specialties.

We have some tips below to give you an idea of some things you can do while recovering from breast surgery, but always remember to check with your surgeon to be sure these activities are safe for you.

Focus on Lower Body and Range of Motion in the First Few Weeks

Because of the risks associated with strenuous activity in the early post-operative phase, The Chrysalis Method provides guidelines on proper movements each week during your recovery which begin with a VERY conservative approach.

Basic range of motion of the lower body in the first two weeks keeps the blood circulating and aids in releasing endorphins for overall wellness. According to an article written by Dr. Catherine Huang-Begovic, “Patients should start light walking immediately after surgery – nothing strenuous, just short walks around the room or home every other hour. This is good for the circulation and helps prevent blood clots.”

Patients of all ages and surgery types have used the movements in our post-operative program for years.

Increase Intensity as Allowed by Your Surgeon

The movements provided in our 12-week protocol do not increase in intensity until week 7. For the first several weeks after surgery, we focus on increasing mobility and range of motion of the lower body with exercises such as:

  • Heel Slides
  • Ankle Pumps
  • Seated Knee Extensions

Our program uses clearance from each patient’s surgeon to unlock the upper body movements in our protocol. Once you’ve received clearance to begin more strenuous activity, you can try increasing range of motion in the upper body. Be sure to avoid heavy lifting until your surgeon gives you the go-ahead.

Some of our favorite stretches are:

  • Shoulder Flexion Wall Crawls
  • Levator Scapulae Stretch
  • Upper Trapezius Stretch

If you want to get access to our full 12-week protocol including movements/exercises after breast surgery, nutritional guidance, and online support, click here to get started.

Before beginning any movement program, be sure to get clearance from your surgeon if:

  • You have a pre-existing medical condition
  • You’re having multiple procedures done at the time of your breast surgery and are not advised to perform any movements or exercises
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