Most people don’t think about physical therapy after breast surgery however the the purpose of physical therapy – – to strengthen and improve mobility – – can be a critical factor in the quality of life for these patients. Patients who undergo this type of surgery immediately begin to realize this are of their body impacts how they move throughout their day. Helping these patients with daily exercises they can do to quickly recover and gain this mobility is critical to their physical and mental recovery.

“Quality of life.” It’s a simple statement and one most of us take for granted. But for women who have undergone breast cancer surgery, basic functions like combing their hair and applying makeup can be difficult to accomplish. Physical therapy can help says Leslie DeMers of Bolton, a physical therapist who works at Westford Health Center, a satellite office of Emerson Hospital. DeMers says physical therapy can make it easier for a patient to regain their “full range of motion,” and their sense of wellbeing. She also works on posture and general strengthening. “It can be difficult to lift your arm up [after surgery] because [women] have damaged muscles … So we teach them how to move, how to stretch,” she said. For women who have had reconstructive surgery, where muscles have been taken from their stomachs or backs, physical therapy can help strengthen those areas as well, DeMers said. While therapy is customized for each patient, DeMers said the main objective for all women is to “functionally be able to do all that you need to do — wash your hair, hook your bra, get dressed.” The ultimate goal of physical therapy, she said, is “to teach people how to do it all for themselves and get them off to a home program of their own.”