In the midst of the challenges that accompany a breast cancer journey, the significance of holistic well-being cannot be overstated. This tailored stretching routine is critical to the unique needs of breast cancer patients, offering a curated stretching routine designed to empower both body and spirit. With a focus on gentle yet effective exercises, let’s embark on a journey to enhance flexibility, alleviate discomfort, and foster a sense of empowerment through mindful movement.
Understanding the Importance of Exercise in Breast Cancer Recovery
Breast cancer recovery is a multifaceted process, and incorporating exercise into your routine can be a game-changer. Engaging in physical activity not only aids in rebuilding strength but also contributes to mental and emotional well-being.
Stretching plays a pivotal role in the recovery of breast cancer patients by addressing physical and emotional challenges associated with treatment.
Scientifically speaking, stretching enhances range of motion, stimulates lymphatic drainage, reduces fatigue, and promotes muscle strength. It counters stiffness, alleviates swelling, and contributes to overall mobility, aiding in the restoration of physical well-being.
Moreover, the psychological benefits of stress reduction and enhanced energy levels make stretching an invaluable and scientifically-supported component of a holistic breast cancer recovery strategy.
The Healing Power of Stretching
As someone who has walked down this path, I’ve been able to discover myself the profound benefits of incorporating targeted stretches into a breast cancer recovery program.
Not only do I encourage all of my clients to stretch throughout their day, but you can find me randomly stretching in places all day long.
Our bodies undergo significant changes not just during and after breast cancer surgery, but from the treatments we receive as well.
Take radiation for example. Radiation tends to show its side effects the further you get from your actual treatment – like in those last 2 weeks of recovery where we’ve stopped receiving radiation, but our skin is still peeling. The same goes for that tightness we get in those radiated areas.
This is why gentle stretching serves as a cornerstone for rebuilding strength, improving circulation, and alleviating muscle tension.
Effective Stretches for Breast Cancer Survivors
My favorite routine for stretching can be done (and should be done) from the moment you wake up, until you go to bed.
A lot of people ask me about different types of stretching (like active, static and dynamic stretching) and when should you do each one. Each one has their own time and place, but really you can do any type of stretching at any time. The goal is just to get you moving!
Here’s my favorite routine to follow:
Cat / Cow:
- Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position, with a neutral spine.
- As you inhale hunch your back rounding your spine outward, tucking your tailbone in without allowing yourself to lean forward. Gently allow your chin to come closer to your neck and feel your shoulder blades hug your ribcage and your spine start to round.
- As you exhale, arch your back press your chest forward, and look up towards the ceiling. Relax your shoulders away from your ears, and gaze straight ahead.
- Repeat about 5x in both directions and follow your breath!
Thread the Needle:
- Start in a tabletop position (on all your hands and knees) on the ground.
- Stack your hips directly above your knees and position your elbows, shoulders, and wrists in a straight line under your shoulders.
- Follow each movement along with your breath. Big deep in for 4 seconds, out for 6 seconds,
- Thread your right arm behind your left arm and twist your spine so your ear goes towards the floor.
- Take a few deep breaths here to allow the back of your shoulder to stretch.
- Thread your right arm back towards neutral and continue lifting your right hand up sending your gaze up with it.
- Take a few deep breaths here to allow your chest and arm to stretch.
- Repeat this sequence about 5x and then return back to neutral position in tabletop to repeat for the other side.
Door Frame Chest Stretch:
- Bring your arm to a perpendicular or “cactus pose” in the door frame.
- You’re going to place your entire forearm on the door frame and you’re going to do the same thing where you twist away from that arm, look away as well.
- You’ll start to feel it even deeper in the chest, the shoulder, and maybe even a little bit in the neck.
- Make sure you’re taking big, deep breaths.
- Let that nervous system calm for a count of inhaling for 4 seconds, and exhaling for 6 seconds.
- Try and hold this until it starts to feel a little bit less tense and then you can twist back and release the arm to repeat for the other side.
Door Frame Side Stretch:
- Take your body and place it against the door frame.
- Whatever side that is, against the door frame, you’re going to take that leg and you’re going to put it behind the other leg.
- Your hip is going to come off, and that’s okay.
- We’re going to step just a little bit closer and then you’re going to lean against the wall.
- You can take the opposite arm and hold on to the door frame to allow yourself to kind of bend a little bit more.
- You’ll start to feel a stretch in the hip down the leg, maybe even a little bit in the calf. This is all great.
- Begin by lying on your back on a comfortable surface in your neutral position with your rolled up towel (for beginner), pillow (for intermediate) or foam roller (for a deep stretch) placed just under your shoulder blades.
- Now slowly raise your arms back over your head as far as is comfortably possible, keeping them straight.
- Try not to arch your lower back during the movement but allow your mid to upper back to arch over and compress firmly against the towel.
- At the end of the movement, slowly bring your arms back and then repeat the exercise.
Tips for a Safe and Effective Stretching Routine
Let these stretches be a source of empowerment, guiding you toward a healthier, more resilient tomorrow.
Remember, each stretch is not just a physical exercise but a mindful affirmation of your strength and determination. Always remember to talk to your medical team before starting any type of fitness routine to ensure you are medically cleared.
Working with someone who has a complete understanding of how breast cancer treatment and surgeries can impact our anatomy is a critical component to regaining control back over our bodies.
Embarking on a stretching routine that’s tailored for breast cancer recovery, is a step towards reclaiming control and fostering resilience. Ensuring your stretches are both safe and effective should be the cornerstone of any fitness routine. Embrace the transformative power of stretching and witness the positive impact it can have on your breast cancer recovery journey.