Patients who need to have breast surgery, no matter the extent of the procedure, will benefit from Physical Therapy! Bridget Faucher, PT, DPT, OCS is Gold’s Gym own Physical Therapist that is able to work with patients with breast cancer that are either going through radiation in all stages, chemotherapy in all stages, lumpectomy, mastectomy and deconditioning from treatments.
Rehabilitation from breast surgery can & should begin even before the surgery itself!
Why start a Physical Therapy treatment plan before the surgery?
It is important because the most common physical problems resulting from lumpectomy or modified radical mastectomy can be prevented!
Common Symptoms Patients Frequently Experience:
- Pain in the chest area
- Weakness & Swelling in the Arm
- Dysfunction in the Shoulder Area
- Loss of Range of Motion & Mobility in the Arm
These symptoms may not be noticeable at first. Usually the patient will keep the arm immobilized due to pain & fear of hurting the incision site. It may only be when a patient tries to lift something or return to daily activities, such as driving, getting dressed or household cleaning will they notice the decrease in abilities.
Other Difficulties That May Result From Breast Surgery:
- Lymphedema-Warning signs to look out for are a feeling of fullness or tightness in the limb & visible swelling. Most post-surgical patients will get a heaviness & some swelling, this is not necessarily lymphedema. In more severe cases, where Lymphedema is present, we will refer the patient to a Certified Lymphedema Specialist.
- Scapula Dysfunction- Trauma to the Long Thoracic Nerve can cause temporary or permanent paralysis of the muscles that help stabilize the Scapular (Serratus Anterior Muscle). Symptoms can include Headaches, Low back pain, or Scapula Pain.
- Nerve Entrapment- Adhesions may cause chest wall pain & numbness. These conditions are often worse for patients who have undergone reconstructive surgery.
- Scar Tissue- Can be painful and restrict the arm’s Range of Motion, which can put the patient at risk for a painful condition called Frozen Shoulder.
- Numbness and/or Nerve Sensitivity- Manual Physical Therapy can help restore sensation and relieve nerve pain.
- Axillary web syndrome or “Cording”- Will restrict Range of Motion & Arm function. Physical Therapy is likely to resolve the symptoms much more quickly.
The degree of difficulty patients encounter with any of these complications varies with the extent of the disease and the procedure, as well as age and prior orthopedic problems.
Recovery from breast surgery – which may take several years – is however, even more directly linked to the timing, intensity and quality of a rehabilitative physical therapy program.
Treatment may include:
- Gentle stretching
- Active assisted motion
- Range of motion exercises
- Strengthening exercises
- Design of a home exercise program
- Wound and skin management
- Nerve stimulation with ultrasound
- Desensitization techniques
- Abdominal exercise for reconstructive surgery patients
- Education about and treatment for lymphedema and its prevention (including skin care, the avoidance of strain, the reduction of fluids, improving the skin’s elasticity, reducing the risk of inflammation)
Physical therapy has positive primary and secondary benefits to patients recovering from breast cancer treatment.
Primary benefits include increasing shoulder range of motion, postural and shoulder strength, decrease in pain and decrease in soft tissue deficits from radiation, and increase in overall functional mobility.
Secondary benefits from a physical therapy program can include improved endurance, self esteem, body awareness, and reduction in anxiety.
Physical therapy is a great final step in the patient’s recovery from breast cancer treatment, as the therapist can teach the patient proper and safe return to prior level of function and give advice where to go from there as the medical treatments are ending and the MD appointments are winding down. The patient does not feel as if they are at a loss for answers now that they are cancer free or on the road to recovery.
Physical therapy will allow for a feeling of final closure to the stressful events of cancer treatment.
CONTACT THE FRONT DESK TODAY TO SET UP AN EVALUATION WITH OUR PHYSICAL THERAPIST, BRIDGET FAUCHER, PT, DPT, OCS!!!