Tag Archive | range of motion

Graduation day!

Today was my last day of PT!!! Not that I didn’t love the ladies I worked with, but I would need to find somewhere to stash the kids for two hours twice a week, and that becomes difficult. I’m sure what I should really be celebrating is the improvement to the range of motion in my shoulder (and I am), but at times the scheduling becomes more important.

Amanda did remeasure my range of motion in the right shoulder, and it’s nearly the same as the left shoulder. I have just a bit better I can do lifting my arm from the side, but I think most of the pulling that’s limiting my motion comes from my chest muscle and the expansion. I did have to promise to do my stretching exercises on a regular basis, especially once radiation starts, since that can tighten up muscles and skin. It’s important to keep the muscles and skin loose for the expansion as well, so I need to remember to do the exercises before my fill tomorrow morning.

Graduation present from the physical therapy office.

Graduation present from the physical therapy office.

Overall, I’m feeling much better today. I caught a cold over the weekend, which completely bummed me out. I’m finally feeling nearly back to normal in the shoulder and chest (I can lift my arm and not feel any of the cording/pulling in the armpit anymore), and I get sick. I just want to feel better, is that so much to ask? I went to bed early last night and finally woke up feeling back to normal today. I still have a cough, so I’m not 100%, but at least my energy level is back to normal.

My chest is a bit sore today, though. I’m wondering if I overdid my exercises yesterday. I also think the cocoa butter I put on last night sensitized the skin around my incision so it’s hurt all day. Won’t be using that again any time soon! The other thing I’ve noticed is my eyelashes are growing back in. I didn’t realize I’d lost nearly all of them, but they’re all really short and curly. It’s surprisingly irritating – vaguely itchy in the eyes because of their length.


First day of physical therapy

Once again, I got to drive to physical therapy after some pretty nasty weather. The temperature was still in negative numbers when I left the house this morning. Luckily the minivan started because the battery hasn’t come in for the other car and it won’t start in these cold temperatures.

PT started easy with some deep tissue massage. This pretty much involved me lying on the table while Amanda massaged my chest and upper arm. After the massage she did a little stretching and was impressed with the improvement in my range of motion. It’s not quite back to normal, but I can at least get both arms near vertical again.

Once the massage was over, it was out to the main room for some stretches and exercise. I had to lay on my back on a foam tube to provide negative space behind my back. First, I did some stretches with my forearms flat on the ground and pulled up toward my head as far as I could go. The trick with this move was to keep my shoulders relaxed so I stretched my pectoral muscles and not my back. Next was the seal clap. Hands together over my body, extend the arms perpendicular to the body to the floor. Next was snow angels, keeping my arms extended and my hands on the floor. Finally, I held a broomstick and lifted it over my head as close to the floor as I could get. Each time, I was able to go a little farther with my right arm, so progress was made.

As a bonus (and a good reason to talk to the therapist), I got a stretch to help with the tingling in the edge of my palm and pinkie finger. Turns out, that’s the ulnar nerve and you do upside-down goggles to stretch it out. Here’s a picture since I can’t explain it easily:

Ulnar nerve stretch.

Ulnar nerve stretch.

And, since it’s been a while, here’s a picture of my hair:

Hair check - it feels like hair now and not just prickles!

Hair check – it feels like hair now and not just prickles!

I’ve actually taken my hat off in public the past week – it’s definitely long enough to fake being an actual choice instead of just growing in from complete loss.


A visit to the physical therapist

One of the surprising elements of my mastectomy is how much it messes with the associated arm. I wasn’t allowed to lift my arm over my head while I had the drains in, and now I can’t even if I want to. This is a known change and so Dr. Engel gave me a prescription to the physical therapist. Because of the removal of lymph nodes, I also need to make sure that physical therapist is a lymphedema specialist.

I was supposed to see the physical therapist within two weeks of the surgery, but with Christmas and New Year’s between the surgery and my appointment, it ended up being a bit later than two weeks. This was just an introductory/measuring visit.

Amanda, the PT I met with, measured my range of motion in both arms for comparison. I had to stretch my arm as far as I could go lifting from the front and then from the side. I also stretched my arm behind my back as far as I could. Needless to say, my right arm didn’t do as well as my left, as you can see from the pictures below. In each, I’m reaching as high as I can with both arms.

Reaching to the side

Reaching to the side

Reaching to the front

Reaching to the front


Amanda also took measurements on the girth of both arms and hands. She measured at the knuckles, the wrist, and at 30cm, 40cm, and 50cm past the nailbed of the middle finger on both arms. If the right arm is significantly larger than the left, that’s evidence of lymphedema and I need to take steps to reduce the swelling. At this point, they’re nearly identical so I’m good so far. Even so, Amanda taught me how to do lymphatic massage to make sure all the fluid is moving out of my arm smoothly.

On a recovery note, I feel much better today than I did even two days ago. The fullness in my armpit is gone, as is much of the pain there. Now, the problems I’m having is in the chest muscle stretching over the expander. Still wearing the Ace bandage, but I’ve got a place to go to see if I can find a good bra. Things are improving, though, even if it isn’t quite as fast as I would like.