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Exercises to do after Breast Cancer Surgery

9Dec 2022

Exercises to do after Breast Cancer Surgery

Most women affected with breast cancer undergo some or the other kind of breast surgery for the removal of cancer. This involves the resection of a part or the entire breast tissue, which leaves behind a difficulty in physical movements of the hands and shoulders, which negatively affects daily activities, movements and the quality of life. To deal with this pain and discomfort, women who have undergone a surgery are recommended to exercise. However, it is advisable to only begin after your doctor’s advise, who will usually recommend these after a week of your surgery.

Exercises after Breast Cancer Surgery 

The most commonly prescribed exercises include:


The easiest exercise to begin can be walking, which helps to keep your body active and gets you moving. Starts walking at a gradual pace for smaller distances initially and slowly increase the intensity and duration of your sessions as per your comfort.

Resume normal movements 

Whether it is eating, cleaning, combing or dressing up, it is important that you resume normal movements of your arm to restore its flexibility and actions. However, one thing you must avoid is sleeping on your affected arm.

Raising your arm

This is the simplest exercise to reduce pain and swelling after the surgery. You are simply required to raise the level of your arm above the level of your heart by placing it on a pillow by your sides. This needs to be done 2-3 times a day for a duration of 45 minutes for your treated side.

Arm movements 

While you raise the level of your arm, you can start performing simple exercises like opening and closing your fist for about 15 to 25 times. Bending your arm and then straightening your elbow can also be performed 3 to 4 times a day. These exercises will gradually help in the movement of your arm.

Breathing exercises

Not just your arms, you also feel a discomfort in the area of your chest following breast cancer surgery, which causes a difficulty in chest movements. To deal with this, you are advised to perform deep breathing exercises at least 6 times a day, which will help you breathe better. 

To perform this exercise, you must lie on your back and take a slow, deep breathe taking in as much air as you can until your lungs sufficiently expand. Following this, you need to breathe out slowly. You can perform 4 to 5 repetitions in each session.

Stretching exercises

Many physicians recommend performing simple stretching exercises each day to help ease pain and movements. Stretching prevents the formation of excessive scar tissue, which can interfere with movements.

Targeted exercises

The above exercises are generally prescribed to all women who have been treated to breast cancer and are thus easy to perform. Additionally, most women also opt for additional exercises weeks after the surgery to improve their movements. These exercises are:

Wand exercises- These involve lifting a wand – like object like a playing stick, broomstick or a handle, above the head with the help of both the hands. This exercise is performed in 5 to 7 reps while lying straight on the back while holding the raised wand in position for about 5 seconds.

Elbow winging exercise- These are performed while lying on the ground and keeping your elbows folded under your neck as they face towards the ceiling. To perform this, you are required to straighten your elbows so that they touch the level of the ground while still being clenched with each other in 5 to 7 reps.

Shoulder blade stretch- Sit upright and place your hands on the table. Gradually, stretch your affected arm while keeping your palm faced down and touching the table. Gradually, bring your arm back towards your body and repeat.

While exercising is important after a breast cancer surgery, it is essential that you do not overdo or strain yourself. It is never recommended to begin exercising without your physician’s consult or continue even if you are uncomfortable. In case of fatigue, shortness of breath, pain or tightness in the chest, it is important to call your doctor. You must also note that these exercises must be performed gradually following your surgery.

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Sunny Garg
Dr. Sunny Garg

Best Oncologist in Gurgaon & Cancer Specialist - Oncoexperts

Dr Sunny Garg is a renowned Medical Oncologist in New Delhi with an experience of more than 10 years of treating cancer patients.

He has studied in one of the most reputed educational institutes of India. He has done his MBBS and MD Internal Medicine from Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University. Thereafter, he has undergone training in Medical Oncology (DM Medical Oncology) from Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology, Bengaluru. He has worked in leading cancer centers in Delhi, and currently practicing at Manipal Hospital, Dwarka, New Delhi.

Dr Sunny Garg has extensive knowledge and experience in the field of oncology, and has treated all cancer types, in various stages, including hard to treat cases. He is well versed with various modalities for cancer treatment like Chemotherapy, Immunotherapy, Targeted Therapy, Hormonal Therapy and Personalised Cancer Therapy.