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Should I talk to a health professional?

If you experience unusual or persistent pain or swelling it is best to seek professional advice.

It is a good idea to let members of your treatment team know that you are following this program.

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Is this program for me?

This program is not a substitute for personal advice from a qualified health professional.  You may want to seek advice before participating in this program especially if you:

  • have had a bilateral mastectomy
  • have recently had breast reconstruction surgery
  • have pre-existing shoulder or upper body problems
  • are experiencing unusual pain, discomfort or swelling.

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What can I do to help my recovery?

  • Avoid lifting your arm beyond 90 degrees (shoulder height) until the end of the first week or after your drain is removed.
  • Do not lift or carry anything heavy (over ½ to 1 kg) using your affected arm for 6-8 weeks. Use both hands to carry things.
  • Do not introduce weights in this program, until you have full and pain-free range of movement in your shoulder and your wound is healing well (usually 6-8 weeks).
  • When introducing weights into your program start with a small weight of 250gms and do not progress to more than ½ kg (unless prescribed by your surgeon, physiotherapist or lymphoedema specialist).

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How should I pace myself?

  • Progress through this program gradually and slowly and avoid pain.
  • Take note of the suggested modifications.
  • Get to know the difference between discomfort and unusual pain. Pain is a sign of overdoing a stretch and may affect wound healing.
  • If you experience pain or fatigue, stop and rest. It may be necessary to modify and reduce the intensity of the exercises, especially during radiotherapy while the skin is healing, or during chemotherapy if you feel too tired.
  • Listen to your body. If in doubt, talk to a health professional. At times you may need to re-start the program at a lower level and progress slowly again. The focus of this exercise program should be on quality of movement and a gradual, progressive increase in duration and intensity of this exercise program. 

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What is Pilates?

Pilates was originally designed by Joseph Pilates in the first half of the 20th century. It is a method of low-impact exercises which emphasises core strength, control, flowing movement and body awareness. Its focus on breathing promotes relaxation. Pilates is used broadly by specially trained instructors and physiotherapists to help people gain strength, control and confidence in movement. It is a gentle and progressive exercise technique that suits people of all ages and fitness levels.

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Why do Pilates after breast cancer surgery?

Pilates can be used to support your recovery, helping regain strength and ease discomfort in the affected arm and chest areas. Pilates builds both strength and mobility, making it effective and safe for women recovering  from breast cancer surgery.

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Why is exercise important after breast cancer surgery?

As with other surgery, the wound and surrounding tissues need time to heal but there are many people who are not sure how much to rest and how much to move.

It is normal to feel discomfort and muscle tension after surgery. For some, a fear of movement may lead to post-operative complications (such as shoulder, chest and neck pain). Gentle and graduated exercises in the early stages after an operation can help minimise these complications.

Many people are understandably protective of their recovering arm; however, movement is very important to avoid the long-term effects of the surgery on your shoulder and neck. 

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