When a person loses an arm or leg, even undergoes joint replacement, physical therapy is part of the recovery process. But it’s not always the case when a woman loses a breast, although mastectomy surgery also leaves women with physical challenges.
“There’s a lot of scaring involved and limited range of motion in usually the shoulder and sometimes the neck and thoracic region. A lot of times they cannot reach into cabinets or do their hair. Sometimes they need someone to help them with showering,” says Pat Curr, physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System.
Tightness around the surgical area is the most common issue. But numbness, sensitivity, limitations in shoulder movement and balance issues can all benefit from specialized women’s therapy offered by Lee Memorial Health System.
“Some people have radiation scarring or burning and that binds down the tissue. That takes a little bit longer to work with and they have a lot of pain. So we customized each physical therapy for what they need,” says Curr.
Like most post-surgery rehab, it’s best to start treatment as soon as possible. Patients are better able to alleviate arm weakness and tightness with the ‘healing touch’ therapy delivers.
“A lot of scar tissue can form right after surgery, so we’ll treat them maybe two weeks after surgery, when drains are taken out - gentle range of motion, gentle exercises to their tolerance and within reasonable range of motion. We need them to move. That’s the key,” says Pat Curr.
Helping women with their strength and flexibility makes them better able to regain their form and restore their lifestyle.“Some people feel that because they’ve survived the cancer and they had the surgery, that they have to live with these limitations. And they really don’t,” says Curr.