• Arm exercises post mastectomy

    Asked by HearMeRoar on Saturday, February 23, 2013

    Arm exercises post mastectomy

    Hey All-

    I was told no lifting my arms above my head until the drains come out. I had 5 drains and am now down to two. My upper arms huuuurt as does under my armpits. Did your doctors make you wait until the drains were out? I am 8 days post surgery.


    10 Answers from the Community

    10 answers
    • bbay65's Avatar

      I ended up staying in hosp. longer so drains were out by the time I came home. But, because of everything, I babies my arm so much it froze. I needed therapy to get my range of motion back. There should be post-op
      directions. Make sure you use those muscles when they say you're ready. Good luck.

      over 5 years ago
    • nancyjac's Avatar

      I don't remember if it was directly tied to when the drains came out or just based on my post surgery followup (which happened to be the same time the last of my drains came out) that the movement and weight restrictions were lifted You probably have several layers of stitches or surgical glue both external and internal. Stretching your arms up or trying to lift too much weight with your arms could cause your incision to tear.

      over 5 years ago
    • fuzztig's Avatar

      As nancyjac answered, I don't remember what precisely the timeframe was for the restrictions. I know, however that I was seen by a physical therapist the day after surgery and was given exercises I was allowed to do. Some of those included elbow curls and shoulder shrugs. I was definitely not allowed to lift anything over 5 pounds for several weeks. I'll look for my post-op instructions and get back to you if I find them. In the meantime, try to relax and allow your body to heal. If you are in pain, use your meds to get some relief.

      over 5 years ago
    • fuzztig's Avatar
      fuzztig (Best Answer!)

      Found the post-op instructions. They are very clear about not raising elbows above shoulder height until the drains are removed, so that means no lifting arms over head. In addition to the exercises I mentioned previously, I was encouraged to perform neck rotation, neck side bending, shoulder blade retraction and shoulder circles. Check with your surgeon if you have questions about their exercise protocol and good luck.

      over 5 years ago
    • Julie99's Avatar

      My surgeon was very specific NOT to lift my arms while the drains were in. And doing too much could keep the drains in longer. One way to move a little that was recommended to me, bend slightly forward and let your arms hang, then do small circles with your arms to move your shoulders. Also, like fuzztig said, neck rolls helped.

      over 5 years ago
    • DYTYBR's Avatar

      Hi @HearMeRoar,
      I just had mastectomy with reconstruction(flap) in January...hospital stay was 6 days. I too started with 5 drains and came home with 4 drains. Then, at 10 days had 3 more removed and the last one (at stomach site) at day 13. I was told not to raise arms until 48 hours after final drain removal. I saw my surgeon and she was concerned about range of motion and the shoulder freezing as bbay65 mentioned. She explained that the lifting no more than 5 lbs (or milk gallon) was more due to my stomach surgery (flap). She also assured me that I could not open any of the incisions at that time. I received an order for Occupational Therapy in the home for arm exercises. I began at day 16. The therapist basically massaged my shoulder/upper arms. She promised that while it may start out hurting by the time she was done it would feel good and she was right. She gave me light exercises like rolling a paint brush up and down the wall for a count of 10, on a flat horizontal surface rolling a baking rolling pin while sitting for a count of 10 and walking around the house with shoulders and back straight and lightly swinging arms bent at elbow. My family joked they were my "Karate Kid" exercises. I was discharged by home therapist after 4 sessions this Friday and now will be going to outpatient PT. I feel my range of motion is better and the arm pit pain has subsided!!! Oh, I also followed therapy sessions with motrin. I hope this helps. Best wishes!

      over 5 years ago
    • nonnie917's Avatar

      This is my rd round with reconstruction surgery. My doctor likes to take things slow to make sure I am going to heal properly. I cannot lift my arms above my head for another 4 weeks or thereabouts. It has already been almost 3 weeks since the surgery and not allowed to lift my arms. I forgot the reason why. I think it has something to do with the tissue or muscle or something. Ask your doctor and get a clear explanation as to why so that you don't make any mistakes.

      over 5 years ago
    • jamrck's Avatar

      I had exercises to do the day after the mastectomy, but they were more stretching outward and behind than above my head. I would strongly suggest you get a referral for a physical therapist who works with cancer patients.

      over 5 years ago
    • mcowett's Avatar

      Listen to the doctor. The reason my doctor told me, (after the fact) was that they do not want you to do anything that may develop a seroma, which is just like a hematoma, which can cause lymphedema. I have lymphedema now and wish I took more precautions to prevent it. I was given some literature about exercises to do with the surgical arm. It sounds like perhaps you are not moving your arm enough, which will cause pain, just not over your head. Good luck!

      over 5 years ago
    • debco148's Avatar

      Yes, do not lift your arms over your head until the drains are out.. there should be some "range of motion" exercises that they gave you upon leaving the hospital. I remember needing the have my shoulders massaged as well. Be careful but try to move arms, shrug shoulders, and tilt head front, back, side to side. Just keeps things moving for now. Then once drains come out ask the surgeon what you can do next. They gave me some simple stretches.

      over 5 years ago

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