Blog

Pilates following Breast Cancer Surgery

Julia Frankish

Pilates is a great way to help to support recovery, regain strength and ease any pain or discomfort that people are feeling in their affected arm and chest area following breast cancer surgery. Pilates is an ideal modality to use in this instance because it uses both strength and mobility combined, can be carefully modified and gently progressed.

At Evolved, we get a number of referrals from breast cancer physiotherapists, and lymphedema specialists for clients that need gentle care after surgery, not only to stretch and lengthen out their muscles but to gradually increase their strength and loads. Often after breast cancer surgery, the arm is quite sensitive to load. So it’s important to very gently, and specifically, strengthen and monitor people’s experience following  their sessions. Our small group classes are ideal for this kind of scenario, where we can use the springs on Pilates apparatus, and theraband to add careful progressions and low load to specific muscle groups. Another benefit to our small class sizes is our ability to provide hands on cueing and specific instructions for optimal placement and positioning.

Pilates is an effective and safe way for women recovering from breast cancer surgery to use to help gain strength, control and confidence in their movements.  It’s also a low impact type exercise with added benefits of core strength and control, as well as breathing strategies which help to enhance relaxation and mobility generally through the chest and torso area. 

We know exercise is incredibly important after breast cancer surgery. But we do need to be quite careful about the types of loads that we subject the shoulder and arm to, and I think that’s quite difficult to know how much to rest and how much to move. We, in consultation with you and your physiotherapist and your lymphedema specialist if you’re seeing one, will design a program that can really slowly and carefully, increase strength and mobility through the shoulder. 

Some of the things we work specifically on are:

relieving neck, shoulder and back pain which are common complaints

prevent restrictive scar formation and shoulder stiffness

restore normal posture after surgery

improve general flexibility, strength, confidence and wellbeing

re-educate muscles to move efficiently

improve or maintain muscle tone for a faster recovery

work towards overall conditioning and improve general wellbeing

breathing strategies and torso mobility.

It’s very normal for people to feel apprehensive about wanting to move their arm because there’s been significant intervention around that area and there is significant fear of movement, however that can lead to other complications so it is important that we use, gentle and graduated exercises, particularly in the early stages of rehab, to help to try to minimize those complications or maximize the outcomes.

If you are interested in learning more about how our classes could help you, please contact us either by email info@evovedpilates.com.au or by phone 0401 720 053.

A resource that you might be interested in having a look at is a program called Strengthen Your Recovery. It was created by the Breast Cancer Association (BCNA)  in consultation with the Australian Physiotherapy Association. You can find our more at https://www.bcna.org.au/health-wellbeing/strengthen-your-recovery/