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- Exercise for people living with cancer (with videos)
- Arm & shoulder exercises after breast surgery
Arm & shoulder exercises after breast surgery
We describe how to perform arm and shoulder exercises after surgery for breast cancer. The exercises aim to gradually improve the movement of your arm and shoulder and help get you back to your usual activities.
Learn more about:
- Before you begin
- What you should expect
- Level one exercises
- Level two exercises
The timelines suggested are a guide only and the time that is right for you will vary – your health care team will let you know which exercises to do and when to do them.
Level one exercises can be started the day after surgery. You can usually use your affected arm normally, up to shoulder height, for light activities from the day after your surgery.
Level two exercises can be started after the drains have been removed or when your health care professionals say you can move your shoulder.
These exercises should not cause pain. Let your doctor or breast care nurse know if you experience any pain or discomfort.
With these exercises, you should regain most arm and shoulder movement and function one month after the operation. If improvement is slow, or if you have trouble doing the exercises, your doctor, physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can give you different exercises to try.
Talk to your doctor about when it is safe for you to begin other types of exercise, such as aerobic and strength-training exercises. A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist can then help you develop an individual exercise program.
For more on this, see Exercise during cancer treatment, or call Cancer Council 13 11 20.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
This information has been developed by Cancer Council NSW on behalf of all other state and territory Cancer Councils as part of a National Cancer Information Working Group initiative.
We thank the reviewers of this information: Jane Turner, Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Sydney Survivorship Centre, Concord Hospital, NSW; Chris Jellies, Director, Domain Health, VIC; Marney Jury, Physiotherapist, Domain Health, VIC; Mary Shearer, The Breast and Endocrine Centre, Newcastle, NSW.
We would like to thank Cancer Council SA for kindly permitting its booklet Breast cancer surgery: information for women having breast cancer surgery to be used as source material for this resource, including the use of the exercise illustrations. Editors: Jenni Bruce, Jenny Mothoneos. Designer & Illustrator: Luisa Chisari.
View the Cancer Council NSW editorial policy.