There has been several athletic women who undergo breast augmentation, and one of the important questions they typically ask is "when can I go back to the gym and exercise?" One of the key elements is that one must not exercise immediately after any type of procedure, including breast augmentation.
To understand why one would be careful when it comes to working out a few weeks after surgery, one should understand how the body would heal after surgery.
Photograph Courtesy of breastexercises.com
rFast Facts about Wound Healing & Breast Augmentation
Maximum tensile strength of a wound is achieved after approximately 3 months.
Around 3 months, the strength of the wound is approximately 90-95% of the original strength of the wound.
Pectoralis Muscle (Chest wall muscle) Strength after a Breast Implant
For implants placed underneath the muscle, especially total submuscular placement such as found in breast reconstruction for breast cancer patients, it was found that there was a decrease in torque strength of the pectoralis muscle by 20.1% after surgery.
Stationary bike is appropriate, except for the Spinning Stationary bike.
Minimize any activities that would involve bouncing.
Stair stepper would be appropriate since there's minimal "bouncing" involved.
I don't recommend an elliptical machine at this time since some athletic women could be aggressive with this exercise.
One can start leg, thigh and buttock exercises.
For the first 8 weeks, no upper body weight lifting at all. I recommend to only work out the lower extremity.
Working out should be every other day if you're an avid athlete to avoid injury and fatigue.
The tensile strength of the wound is approximately 60%.
At this time, the tensile strength of the wound from surgery would be approximately 70 to 80%.
I would continue using the stair stepper and still avoid running aggressively that would involve a lot of bouncing.
The elliptical machine can be started as long as there's minimal "bouncing" action. I would stress a forward gliding motion on the elliptical instead of vertical bouncing (more resistance can aid with this). If one start having pain over the chest, I recommend to stop doing this particular exercise.
After eight weeks you can start biceps and triceps exercises with light weights and low repetitions (slowly incorporating these into the workout so as to not injure the weak and healing area.)
The tensile strength of the wound is approximately 90-95% at this time.
You can slowly start running on the threadmill.
At 12 weeks you can start a regular workout routine, BUT TAKE IT SLOW. We recommend 35-50% of the weight and reps you were using for upper extremity prior to surgery.
Signs that You Have Workout Too Much
According to some of my athletic patients who have worked out beyond their limits after surgery, one of the signs that you have "worked out too much" is the "feeling of soreness & hardness above the incision."
Pain or soreness over the breast/chest area
Worst scenario: wound breakdown and implant extrusion.
Potential Consequences if One Works Out Beyond Their Limits after a Breast Augmentation
Bottoming out and sagging of the augmented breast.
Early wound complications, such as wound breakdown (can occur during the first several days after surgery.)
Implant extrusion (implant exposure) which is a surgical indication to remove the implant and replace it with a new one.
Re-do surgery may need to be done. Without a cosmetic insurance, this can be very costly!
Resuming exercise after breast augmentation can be particularly challenging. One should ask your plastic surgeon for any advice regarding their exercise protocol after a breast enhancement procedure. If one experiences pain after a particular exercise activity, I recommend to stop performing that certain activity and resume 1-2 weeks later.
References: Anglin C, Wyss UP. Arm motion and load analysis of sit-to-stand, stand-to-sit, cane walking and lifting. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2000 Jul;15(6):441-8. de Haan A, Toor A, Hage JJ, et al. Function of the pectoralis major muscle after combined skin-sparing mastectomy and immediate reconstruction by subpectoral implantation of a prosthesis. Ann Plast Surg. 2007 Dec;59(6):605-10.
Monaco JL, Lawrence WT. Acute wound healing: an overview. Clin Plast Surg. 2003;30:1-12.