Skip to Content

Menu Icon
Menu
Menu Icon

Exercises After Mastectomy

Topic Overview

After breast surgery (mastectomy), you may feel some pain going down your arm. Your shoulder and arm may be stiff and hard to move. You may also have some loss of feeling there.

The basic exercises described here will help you start moving your arm. But be careful not to overdo it. For example, don't lift anything heavy with your arm until your doctor says it's okay.

Getting started with exercises

Don't start to exercise until your doctor says it's okay. If you are not sure how to do an exercise, don't start it until your doctor or physical therapist shows you exactly how to do it.

Stop exercising if your arm or chest area hurts or begins to swell. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms. Also call your doctor if you have problems doing an exercise or if it hurts.

Wear loose-fitting clothing while you do your exercises.

Use your arm for your usual activities, such as brushing your teeth and hair.

Special exercises that will help you get back your strength and flexibility include:

  • Shoulder shrug.
  • Shoulder roll.
  • Shoulder blade stretch.
  • Overhead reach.
  • Shoulder pinch.
  • Wall climb.
  • Elbow circles.

See pictures of how to do these exercises.

When should you call for help?

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your exercises cause pain or are hard to do.
  • You have fluid buildup in your arm.
  • You notice swelling anywhere in your arm, armpit, or chest area.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Douglas A. Stewart, MD - Medical Oncology
Current as of June 28, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.