Perhaps the most common question asked from a prospective breast augmentation patient is “When can I start exercising or go back to work after my breast augmentation procedure?”
There are no studies to actually address and evaluate this question, so most of the information here is based on medical practice guidelines and common sense.
I am confident every well trained plastic surgeon recommends no strenuous activity for 2 weeks after breast augmentation. Some plastic surgeons, who are more conservative, including me, will recommend 4 weeks.
Let me clarify what strenuous activity means, however. I had a patient who had a one year old child and she had breast augmentation. The baby was placed in her arms during the first week of her surgery, in order to avoid heavy lifting. The baby squirmed, forcing her to suddenly adjust her arm position. That sudden movement most likely caused her to have a hematoma, which required operative drainage. Therefore, any sudden upper body movement must be avoided the first 2-4 weeks. Once a hematoma forms, the risk of capsular contracture in the affected breast increases, and the result may not be as pleasing as the opposite side.
It takes approximately 2-3 months for a capsule to fully form around the breast implant. All foreign bodies inside our tissue will form a capsule (shell) around it. This is our way of “ignoring” this foreign material. If the implant has not settled in before the capsule has formed, the only way to reposition the implant is another surgery (partial or total capsulectomy). Therefore, it is critical for the patient to massage the implants after the first week and to minimize any activity which will cause contraction of the pectoralis muscle (if the implant is placed behind the muscle). To give you an example, a leg extension machine requires the patient to hold the handle bars on the side of the machine while lifting the weights with the thigh muscles. Every time the weight is lifted, the patient has to hold the handle bars tightly which also causes contraction of the chest muscle! As a patient, therefore, one has to constantly be aware of what activities can potentially activate the pectoralis muscle.
If a patient is adamant about exercising after the first few days, I recommend walking on a flat surface at a slow pace. What constitutes a slow pace? If the patient is using her arms while walking, that is too fast a pace. Try walking real fast without swinging your arms, it is almost impossible!
After the first month, the patient may resume any activity as tolerated, as long as they continue the breast massage for a full three months after surgery. I do not recommend any pectoralis muscle specific exercises, such as push- ups or bench presses. To me it does not make sense to feminize the breast with an implant while masculinizing the chest muscle. This is my personal philosophy, however.
Michael A. Jazayeri, M.D. is a board certified plastic surgeon with over 14 years of experience. His office is located in Orange County, California. To schedule a free consultation, please call (714) 834-0101.
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