The need for physical therapy after traumatic accidents and surgeries is evident. It can make a huge impact on patient recovery as they strive to regain control and mastery of their bodies again. For some patients, the benefits of physical therapy are not as easy to see. Specifically, when surgeries do not overtly impact physical functioning, patients may not be as willing to participate in difficult physical therapy because they do not see the point.
However, physical therapy is not just about restoring lost functionality. It is also about adjusting someone’s body to new conditions that can cause injury in the long run. Stevette Camp a mastectomy patient in Vancouver, Canada, knows this all too well.
Camp was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 42, and decided to leave nothing to chance. She had a double mastectomy, removing the tumor and much of the risk of a recurrence. The recovery from a mastectomy is long and intensive, and all Camp wanted to do was rest.
So, when Camp’s doctor recommended she begin physical therapy a week after surgery, Camp was less than enthusiastic. She had undergone physical therapy several years prior, and her therapist embodied a no pain no gain philosophy that Camp did not feel up to.
So she continued resting. Within the month, Camp was experiencing arm pain. She was informed by her doctor that this was caused by the removal of lymph nodes in her arm and a lack of proper adjustment to it. They gave her a brace that helped and recommended physical therapy again. This time, Camp agreed.
Joyce Masters, a therapist who specializes in cancer based physical therapy, was quickly able to teach Camp how to manage and prevent future pain. She taught Camp stretches to help minimize her arm pain and also advised Camp on stretches to help prevent shoulder and back pain that would result from the surgery.
The shoulders carry less weight after a mastectomy, and it is normal for women to naturally shift their body to take more weight off the shoulders as a result. This can cause future pain and complications as the shoulder muscles weaken.
Physical therapists are experts on how the body shifts and changes as a result of a surgery, and it is of the utmost importance that patients undergoing surgery take the time to consult with a PT, even if they feel absolutely fine.