Breast surgery is a common procedure for women, with 193,073 breast augmentation surgeries and 137,808 reconstructive operations performed in 2020. Breast surgery has a high success rate, but post-operative care is critical for recovery. One of the best ways to help the body heal after surgery is with a low-impact exercise like swimming.
There are numerous benefits to swimming after breast surgery. However, you must follow your surgeon’s post-operative guidelines and consult with a healthcare professional before starting a swimming routine. Your doctor can examine your surgical site and ensure it has had time to adequately heal to reduce the risk of infection from waterborne pathogens.
Benefits of Swimming After Breast Surgery
Swimming is an excellent exercise for women recovering from all types of breast surgery, including mastectomy, augmentation, reduction, and reconstruction. Some of the many benefits of swimming after breast surgery include:
Improved Range of Motion and Flexibility
After breast surgery, women often experience a limited range of motion and stiffness in their arms and shoulders. Swimming improves your upper body’s movement and flexibility and reduces tension in your neck and back muscles and shoulder joints.
Water provides a natural resistance that helps strengthen the muscles around the chest and shoulders, and the buoyancy of the water can provide a sense of weightlessness, which can help reduce stress on the joints.
Reduced Risk of Lymphedema
Lymphedema is a common side effect of breast surgery, especially after lymph node removal, and it can cause excessive swelling and discomfort in the arms and chest.
Swimming reduces the risk of lymphedema by promoting lymphatic drainage. The pressure of the water and the muscle contractions that occur while swimming can help stimulate the lymphatic system, reducing swelling and inflammation.
Enhanced Cardiovascular Health and Weight Management
Significant weight gain or loss can cause changes in breast size and shape, impacting the overall appearance and symmetry of the breasts. Excess weight also increases the risk of post-surgical complications and breast cancer recurrence.
Swimming is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular health and manage weight. It also improves heart health, lowers blood pressure, and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
One of the biggest benefits of swimming after breast surgery is improved mental health. Swimming is a relaxing and meditative exercise that can help reduce stress and anxiety. Swimming also releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin, which can help improve mood and reduce stress.
How Soon After Breast Surgery Can I Swim?
The timing for swimming after breast surgery depends on the type of surgery performed and your surgeon’s advice. It is important to allow your incisions to heal properly before exposing them to water, which can increase the risk of infection.
Patients who have undergone breast augmentation may need to wait up to four weeks before swimming. Patients who want to go swimming after breast reduction surgery or a mastectomy may also need to wait up to six weeks and must have their surgical drains removed.
Swimming Tips for Breast Cancer Survivors
If you are ready to get back into the water, there are several important tips to follow to ensure you stay safe and minimize the risk of injury.
Wear a Well-Fitted Swimsuit and Swim Forms
Wearing a swimsuit that fits well and provides adequate breast support can reduce discomfort and prevent potential injury or damage to the incision site. Choose a swimsuit with features like pockets sewn into the cups to hold swim forms and adjustable straps to ensure the right fit.
Swimsuit fabrics should be quick-drying to avoid skin irritation and offer resistance to chlorine, salt water, and heat for long-lasting durability.
The Penbrooke Ditsy Days Girl Leg Mastectomy Swimsuit is an excellent swimwear choice for breast surgery patients. It features a flattering shirred front panel and a tummy control lining. The extra wide straps won’t dig into your shoulders, even during vigorous exercise, and the high neckline and armholes disguise surgical scars and hold your swim forms in place.
When swimming, always apply sunscreen to protect the skin from harmful UV rays. Some breast cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy or chemotherapy, can increase your skin’s sensitivity, and surgical scars can remain sensitive to UV for up to 18 months after surgery. Use at least SPF 30 sunscreen and reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Work with a Certified Swimming Instructor or Physical Therapist
Working with a certified swimming instructor or physical therapist can benefit patients who want to get back in the water. These professionals can provide guidance on exercises that can enhance the range of motion and strength and help with modifications to meet individual needs and limitations. They can also teach proper techniques to reduce the risk of injury and ensure a safe experience in the water.
Practice Specific Exercises to Enhance Range of Motion and Strength
Practicing specific exercises can improve joint mobility and muscle strength, making swimming after surgery more enjoyable.
Gentle exercises targeting the chest, shoulder, and arm areas can improve flexibility, allowing smoother and more efficient swimming strokes. Arm rotations, wall climbs, and arm stretches are all exercises that can enhance the range of motion and strength for swimming.
Always warm up before starting a workout to reduce the risk of injury. Take a short walk, march on the spot, or do dynamic stretching to loosen up your muscles and joints.
Use Swim Aids
Swim aids such as kickboards and pool noodles can provide additional support and stability in the water, making it easier to perform water aerobics and swimming strokes. They can also help reduce stress on the upper body and ensure you feel comfortable while swimming.
Swim to Support Your Recovery
Swimming after breast surgery can be an excellent, low-impact way to improve upper body strength and flexibility and speed up your recovery. Ensure you have everything you need to get back in the water with mastectomy swimwear and breast forms from Mastectomyshop.com.
We carry an extensive range of one-piece swimsuits and swimwear separates from trusted brands like Penbrooke, Jodee, and T.H.E. Explore our complete collection today and discover the benefits of swimming after breast surgery for yourself.