Undergoing a mastectomy is physically and emotionally painful. However, it is often necessary.
A mastectomy is a viable treatment option for breast cancer patients. It is also frequently done to prevent breast cancer. In turn, it can save your life.
Yet, the physical and emotional scars still remain. Many post-mastectomy patients face challenges, including pain, fatigue, anxiety, muscle tension, lymphedema, and nausea. Research shows that post-operative massage therapy can help patients through these challenges.
During surgery, the most common mastectomy method involves an incision from the nipple line to the armpit. The length of this incision may depend on how much of the breast is being removed. However, the bigger the area operated on, the more scarring there will likely be. The skin, fascia, and other tissues are also impacted by this incision.
The surgeon then removes all or part of the axillary lymph nodes. This removal may significantly impact the axillary muscle and fascia. When healing takes place, these structures may bind together or stick together due to scar tissue formation.
However, the amount of scar tissue from surgery depends on the type of mastectomy performed. But most often, there will be some scarring – whether it’s obvious or not. This scarring and healing process can further cause shoulder movement restrictions and postural problems.
The shoulder, in particular, can become a problematic joint after a mastectomy. The shoulder is already a fairly unstable joint. Yet, the muscles and tissues surrounding it help keep it in check. But if these tissues and muscles become tight, weak, or stressed post-surgery, a chain of issues could arise. Other muscles may compensate, causing further problems. If the areas around the shoulder become stiff, a frozen shoulder may also result.
Another issue in conjunction with the shoulder is postural problems. The pectoralis major and pectoralis minor are the 2 major chest muscles. These muscles may feel tight and sore following reconstruction or a mastectomy. When the chest muscles become tight, the body often hunches inward, rounding the upper back. This is further accentuated by weak upper back postural muscles – such as the trapezius, rhomboids, and neck muscles.
To prevent postural issues from occurring, it’s critical for post-mastectomy patients to perform postural exercises on a regular basis. A massage therapist can help you determine what kind of exercises are suitable for you and your situation. Massage can further help decrease pain, anxiety, stress, and lymphedema post-surgery. In addition, massage therapy can help you retain and improve the range of motion in the shoulder joint following a mastectomy.
Massage therapy promotes proper healing and recovery following a mastectomy operation. It is recommended to wait about 2 weeks after surgery before your first massage. However, this may vary depending on your surgeon’s or doctor’s orders and advice.
At Athlete’s Choice Massage, our experienced and registered therapists offer a compassionate and comfortable environment for you to get the treatment you need. Come back stronger than ever post-surgery. Book your appointment today.