strengthening exercises for shoulder/arm

Hi I was wondering if anyone has rec’d any guidance or can signpost me to something about shoulder-strengthening exercises post-breast cancer treatment (particularly for people who have had treatment to the axilla but don’t (fingers crossed) yet have lymphoedema). 

I’ve been doing all the shoulder exercises that we get given post surgery - and they have definitely been helpful - but these are more about mobility and flexibility than strength.

I’ve returned to my usual pilates class and am definitely noticing I’m much weaker on my treated side when we do things like planks (not that I was particularly strong before but I’m even weaker now!). I googled after the last class and found some info on the future dreams website which was saying not to hold things like planks for more than 45 seconds as putting pressure through the affected area of lymph could be risky . Fortunately I crashed out before 45 seconds anyway but I would really like to know a) some good (and safe) strengthening exercises for the shoulder and b) what to avoid. Exercise generally feels like an area where advice has shifted to be less cautious than it was in the past but I don’t want to push my luck.

Hi @berry25 . I was in the same situation as you and just didn’t know what was safe to do following lymph node removal and radiotherapy to all nodes. I couldn’t find any guidance as all was conflicting.

I was recommended to look up Carolyn Garritt by my GP (she’s on instagram and has recently written a book ‘Get your Oomph back’) as she’s a cancer exercise specialist who runs online classes re strength training following breast cancer. I am now gradually building up arm strength.  

It’s so hard to know how far you can push yourself.  Like you, I’ve found Pilates has helped (and with hormone therapy side effects) but just avoid planks and anything which puts strain on my shoulder.

Thanks @Caro2022 that’s really helpful. Your GP sounds great!

Hi berry@25, you may want to consider swimming, perhaps in a female only session, as I have found this has helped me with regaining movement and strength.  I am almost 5 years post treatment now, but the breast cancer clinic at my local hospital not only had a gym, where they would offer one to one advice, but were arranging swimming classes specifically for groups of women who had been through treatment.  In this post-covid world, I don’t know how many of these facilities survived, but good luck.  I haven’t tried pilates, but am able to “plank” in yoga now, so it might be worth you looking at other alternatives, to see what is on offer.

Hi Berry25

I’m doing physio/rehab for shoulder/upper arm issues post surgery, SLNB & RT. I had good RoM & got back to yoga class, gym & swimming 6-8 weeks post RT. All was going well for a few weeks until I started to get some underarm tightening & shoulder/upper arm pain with some range restriction. 

I thought I was heading for a(another) frozen shoulder so I saw my physio (also my yoga teacher) who diagnosed rotator cuff tendinopathy. Possibly overdone it at the gym or late effects of surgery/RT or both… BCN thought there was also some mild cording but physio is not convinced. I’m currently going to yoga class along with doing some physio exercises with resistance bands to rebuild strength & RoM. Down dogs are perfect for stretching and strengthening & I’ve been told to lay off the pec machine as we need to strengthen our back muscles (trapezius & rhomboids) to help our posture & strengthen the shoulder girdle. Swimming (breast stroke) is also good.

I’ve included a link to ’the breast cancer physio’ below (I think it was also recommended by the nurses somewhere else in this forum); a fantastic Australian lady who has recorded a whole series re. related issues. Do build up carefully, it can take up to a year or so for everything to settle down, and have a session with a physio if you can to guide you. I’ve found specific physio advice much more helpful.