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Exercising after having a mastectomy.

Exercise can help patients regain function and range of motion and increase quality of life after mastectomy (breast removal). Carrie Myers Smith, President of Women in Wellness, has some suggestions for patients recovering from the operation:

1. Know when it is safe to exercise. After surgery, you must have the surgeon's approval before exercising.

2. Surgical drains should be removed before you begin a formal exercise program.

3. There should be no open wounds in the skin from either radiation or surgery.

4. When you first exercise after surgery, the goal is to decrease pain and increase range of motion. Activities of daily living help restore movement, but these exercises should be more passive at first. The unaffected arm should do most of the work, bringing the affected arm "along for the fide." After you feel comfortable exercising this way, you can do more active range-of-motion exercises.

5. Practice deep breathing during these exercises. Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth, taking twice as long to exhale as to inhale. Hold these stretches for 10 to 30 seconds and do three sets of each:

* Overhead elevation. Lying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hold a rod with both hands, resting it over the hips. Keeping the elbows straight, slowly lift the arms until the rod is directly over your face. Take a deep breath and, while exhaling, slowly continue to lift the rod over your head until the rod is resting on the floor. Hold the stretch, then lower the rod back down to your hips.

* Butterfly stretch. Lying in the crunch position with hands clasped behind your head, push your elbows down toward the floor. To release, lift your elbows back up toward your face.

* Side-arm stretch. Sitting in a chair, grasp your affected hand with your other hand; then bring both hands to the top of your head. Pull your affected arm up over your head, bringing the forearm as close to the opposite ear as possible. Repeat on the other side. After you can do this stretch with ease, add a torso side stretch.

* Wall climb. Facing a wall, stand about six inches away. Place your palms on the wall just above your head, and walk the fingers of your unaffected hand up the wall until you reach full extension. Then do the same with your affected hand.

* Angel wings. Lying on your back with your knees bent, hold your arms flat on the floor in 90-degree angles at the elbows, with palms toward ceiling. Maintaining the 90-degree angles, slowly slide your hands above your head. Hold at the point of discomfort.

* Diagonal arm abduction. Place one of your arms on the opposite thigh, holding it straight, and lift it diagonally overhead. Repeat on the other side.

* Corner pectoral stretch. Standing one arm-length away from a comer, place a palm about shoulder-high on each wall. Slowly lower your body into the corner until you feel a good stretch.

6. Continue to exercise safely. Four to six weeks after surgery, you will probably be able to add more exercises and start cardiovascular activity. Once range of motion is restored, the surgeon's approval is needed to begin training with equipment. Working with a qualified personal trainer can also help you exercise safely and effectively.

(Editor's Note: Readers should consult with a physician before attempting any exercises.)
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Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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