I recently had a preventive double mastectomy, and at the follow-up the surgeon explained why I must wait six weeks before resuming lifting weights with my upper body.
I had searched all over cyberspace for WHY a patient, who, previous to a double mastectomy had been passionate about strength training, had to wait four to six weeks before resuming lifting weights with their upper body.
• Was this because of pain?
• Was it related to healing of the incision?
• Was there some other reason?
I could not find the medical answer anywhere. All I came up with was the waiting time, which ranged from four to six weeks.
My instruction sheet implied four weeks, but my surgeon said six weeks.
I planned on waiting until my follow-up appointment to ask him. I had an elective double mastectomy WITHOUT reconstruction.
The rule of four to six weeks applies to both prophylactic (preventive) and required mastectomy.
Why You Must Wait at Least Four Weeks to Resume Lifting Weights After a Mastectomy
As the surgeon was explaining why, I was jotting down his words, trying to get as much as possible verbatim.
• “…The skin flap sealing up against chest muscle, you want space to be nil.”
• So that the “skin envelop apposes chest musculature tissue – a seal.”
• “Muscle activity causes movement. If something is moving, there’s less likelihood of not sealing.”
So there you have it: A medical reason for why you must wait four to six weeks to resume your coveted strength training.
This stinks, but I certainly will not do anything to threaten the sealing between the skin flap and the chest muscle wall.
The surgeon pointed out that some doctors are more conservative and make the restriction eight weeks while others are a little looser with the restriction, putting it at four weeks.
Fitness level prior to mastectomy does not determine when you can return to lifting weights.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.