Exercise after Breast Cancer Surgery

Written by: Ciella Berman
Published: April 27, 2023

For individuals diagnosed with breast cancer it’s extremely common that a surgery will be required as part of their treatment. Many different surgeries can be performed from removing the tumour to re-constructing the whole breast. We know however, this makes rehabilitation not only necessary but crucial in aiding that person to recover faster.

Side effects and limitations post surgery

  • Pain in chest, shoulders and under the arm.
  • Tightness through the upper body area which can limit upper body range of motion.
  • Weakness of the supporting muscles in the upper body area.
  • Emotional distress as individual experiences changes to their body outside of their control.

How can Exercise Help

  • Regain range of motion of your upper body.
  • Increase strength of the upper body.
  • Reduction in pain.
  • Increase functional capacity of your upper body so that you can get back to where you were physically prior to surgery.
  • Enable you to return back to the activities you love sooner.

Exercise recommendations

Where to start after your surgery

  • Stretching the muscles in your upper body area.
  • Non-weighted upper body movements such as reaching your hands up towards the roof or doing arm circles.

The next step once you have full range of motion

  •  Start to introduce light weights starting with 1kg or 2kg dumbbells, exercises I would focus on would be front raises, chest press, bent over row and bicep curls.

From there gradually build up the weight you are working with!


Whilst exercising after surgery can play a pivotal role in your recovery it’s also important to start building strength and flexibility in your upper body prior to surgery too. The stronger you are going into your surgery the stronger you’ll be walking out of your surgery which means a smoother transition into your rehabilitation.