6 Mobility Exercises: Where to Start After Breast Cancer Surgery
breast cancer rehabilitation
Marian Barnick

Marian Barnick

Registered Kinesiologist and Human Movement Specialist



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Mobility Exercises for Shoulder Pain

Post surgery, breast cancer patients need to start with mobility exercises as soon their surgeon provides their consent.

Movement is vital because improved mobility helps to:

  • decrease pain
  • decrease swelling
  • improve range of motion
  • reduce lymphedema risk
  • return to daily activities



Good joint mobility is essential prior to adding exercises to work on stability and strength.

This is the same for all post surgical patients and no different for breast cancer patients.

The problem is the messaging.


Breast cancer patients are told to exercise.  Told to go walking.

That’s not rehabilitation.


And rehabilitation is what’s required after surgery.

mobility exercises

If a baseball player had shoulder surgery would you tell him to go out and pitch?


The first thing that he’d be provided is rehabilitation to improve mobility in his shoulder.

So why aren’t breast cancer patients getting the same rehab services?


Look at the studies of long term problems faced by breast cancer survivors.  The number one issue is lack of mobility and pain.  Two problems that are rectified with a good foundational  program that provides mobility exercises.




The easiest way to have someone become more active is with walking.


the need of breast cancer survivors is not just getting active.

It’s learning to Move Well.


If you don’t help your body regain the mobility lost through treatment, surgery, and deconditioning then you limit your success – your ability to reach your best potential.


Handing a patient a pamphlet with a few pictures of stretches is not the answer.


Who knows if these are the stretches that YOU need

or your Mom, your Aunt, or your Best Friend.


If you’re doing great with shoulder abduction but your extension sucks, then that’s what you need to work on.


Unfortunately, there’s no evaluation provided to patients so they know what they need to work on, when they should be working on the proper stretches, and when it’s ok to move forward with more complex exercises.


That’s scary for a lot of women and that type of fear in doing the wrong thing keeps patients from making progress with movement and getting back to an active life.


Breast Cancer Patients Need to Start with Shoulder Mobility Exercises


Mobility Exercises are the key to success after surgery and shoulder range of motion comes first after breast cancer surgery.


If you don’t move well you’re limiting all aspects of your activities.


I’m not saying this to scare you, I’m saying this to get you to check your foundational mobility.

It could be your daily home activities, taking care of the kids, or sport specific training.
When your shoulder mobility is limited it’s putting you at a disadvantage.


Let’s look at a simple example.


You want to reach for something on the top shelf in the kitchen.

Of course your shoulder is going to move and get that arm up overhead so you can successfully complete your task.


But what happens if your shoulder doesn’t have the range of motion it needs?

Do you give up and just not get the item or do you manipulate your body position to successfully complete your task.


I’m thinking it’s the latter because what we do, what our brain is hard wired to do, is to complete the task.


So you’ll stand on your tip toes, lean to one side, arch your back – whatever it takes.


This muscle pattern compensation and it puts you at increased risk of injury.

It also shows that you’re limiting your potential.

Because if you had better range of motion you’d be able to perform better.  Whether at home, work, or play. 


And that’s the foundation you need.


The Foundational Shoulder Movements

 There are six foundational shoulder movements and these are where you need to start.


mobility exercises


You may not have problems with all of them but it’s important to have a rehabilitative program that provides mobility exercises for the shoulder ranges of motion that have deficits.


Here’s a link to the foundational shoulder moves so you know exactly how your shoulder moves. 


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At Home Shoulder Movement Assessment


When you’re ready and have the consent from your surgeon, it’s important for you to know how well you’re moving your shoulders.


It’s also important to check both the right and left sides regardless of whether or not you have one side or both side surgery.


This Shoulder Movement Assessment is a great way to learn how you’re moving and how to move properly, with good body mechanics.


Click the link below and start your Free Assessment.


Free Shoulder Movement Assessment


mobility exercises



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