After mastectomy, some women experience tightness across the chest, stiffness in the shoulder and decreased use of the arm. Physical therapy can be useful in this instance to gently stretch scar tissue, and increase the arm & shoulder’s range of motion, to that of pre-surgical status. It can also be used to increase strength and stamina after the post surgical recovery. Another issue after the surgery involving axillary lymph node dissection/biopsy is swelling of the arm, hand, back and/or chest. This swelling that occurs many weeks to years after surgery is called lymphedema.
Physical therapy evaluation and treatment is helpful to identify specific problems, improve drainage of fluid and function of remaining lymphatics, and also measure for compression garments. Education of preventative measures for lymphedema is also important. Talk to your doctor to see if physical therapy is appropriate for you.