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Exercise - need guidance post reconstruction

Posts: 16
Joined: Aug 2011

Has anyone received definitive answers on the use of dumbells for strength training after reconstruction with implants? Need some guidance and doctors seem to avoid the topic.

Please share your thoughts.

New Flower
Posts: 4299
Joined: Aug 2009

Good question. If you have had any lymph nodes removed (even 1) according to the literature you should not use more than 10 Lb bells. Some breast surgeons even recommend to limit weights for one hand to 5 . The reason for it is  a dange of developing lymphedema. you can check with your plastic surgeoun as well. If you have minor swelling to need to wear a compression sleeve during work out with weights.

Good luck

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2013

I was also told that if you had lymph nodes removed that you shouldn't shave with a regular razor; use an electric one instead bc of the risk of lymphedema. I did not realize the dangers of lymphedema. I thought it was something that could happen only after the mastectomy, but no. It's something that we must be careful of all the time. My plastic surgeon actually suggested pre-natal yoga after my reconstruction, but I did the deep flap reconstruction where they took my tummy fat and put it into my boob, so I had to be careful of my stomache.

Some good advice too was to listen to your body. If you feel pain then stop.

Good Luck.

Dawne.Hope's picture
Posts: 825
Joined: Sep 2009


I agree with New Flower that it depends on how many lymph nodes were removed. And it also depends on what kind of shape you were in prior to breast cancer.


I had a bilateral (one side prophylatic) with only sentinel nodes removed on each side and I developed LE. I lifted a lot prior to BC.  I was a gym rat.  


I've been able to work up slowly with free weights over a period of two and a half years. I can't do the intensity of weight lifting with my arms that I was able to do prior to my surgeries but it is do more to LE than reconstruction.

The concern with implants and weight lifting is you don't want the implant to pop out of the pocket that your PS made for it. Be careful doing bench work and pec work.  For us reconstructed gals, if you're going to work on your pecs ... do it on an incline bench because it puts less stress on the pecs.  Those muscles have already been worked over by the stretching of the tissue expanders.  

Overall, you can weight lift you just need to be careful, especially if you're at risk for developing lymphedema. Weight lifting can be good for lymphedema as long as weight progression is doing slowly over time.

Here is a link that was written by fellow gym rats :) for trainers and instructors. I've found it helpful in training myself. :)



Here is a more general reference on exercise.


Clementine_P's picture
Posts: 516
Joined: Feb 2011

I still workout and do weights but now I am more careful when doing pec work (I really don't do much of anything for my pec now except holding plank position for 30 seconds 10x).  I don't want there to be a displacement of my implants.  So, I am just more careful but I still use weights.  Good advice Dawne.

I had 11 lymph nodes removed and my PS and Surgeon told me that I should just go about life as I did before - use weights, work out whatever.  So far I am fine with respect to lymphadema.  I have a friend that developed it 5 years after her surgery and she is quite active.  Her doctor basically told her it is a crapshoot as to who gets it but your risk increases with the amount of nodes that are removed.  She had about 20 nodes removed.



Posts: 579
Joined: Dec 2010

Thank you Dawne, you passed on info I was unaware of.  I used to lift eight pound weights but now only five.  Eight for one move only as I find it comfortable.  Yoga made me very strong slowly and led me on to Pilates.  I agree slowly but surely.  I do find my implants 'twitch' on exercising, so from perky to even more perky..........  Planks tire me but I tend to concentrate on them more as have other arm issues ie tennis elbow and reps annoy that.  My Oncol strictly tells me the most important thing now, is to go to the gym and neve stop moving......

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