On Being Flexible | Part One

I'm not that flexible
I’m not *that* flexible

Having just been to the doctor’s office this week, surgery’s back on my mind.  Immediately after the mastectomy, of course some pain and weakness are totally expected. Since I’d spent time with the physical therapist before the surgery, I knew that my range of motion would be limited at first.  I could raise my arms to shoulder level as soon as possible, and by the end of six weeks I should be able to raise my arms straight up over my head.  She cautioned me that I should take things slowly, but that I needed to work to get back a full range of motion.  Being overprotective would actually work against me, she said she’d worked with women who couldn’t raise their arms higher than their shoulders years after their mastectomy.  Determined not to have that problem, I worked on her exercises to have a full range of motion as soon as it was allowed.  At this point, I think my shoulders are as flexible as they ever were.  The pectoral muscles are still an issue.  They’re always a little tight, when the physician’s assistant described it as my body’s “white noise,” I think she got it just right.  There’s always a tightness, but I don’t always notice it.  Then there are times when those muscles are definitely spasm-ing (is that a word?) and while it’s not painful, it’s really uncomfortable.  Those muscle issues should lessen after my final surgery, though they could continue long after I’m “back to normal.”  In chatting with my doctor, I asked if exercise would lessen or exacerbate the muscle tightness.  He assured me that stretching is good, but strength building of those muscles might cause more harm than good.  So no push ups for me!  Can’t say I’m too sad about that!  (Though I do miss the plank and push up heavy neighborhood boot camp…)  Still, I can work on my arm muscles, and he encouraged me to strengthen my back.  Apparently, the way the muscles are pulled causes the shoulders to want to slump forward, so strengthening my back will help naturally pull my shoulders back into place.  Right now, I think I’m focusing on getting my groove back on the trails, but after I get the post-surgery green light, I’ll be adding some weights into my running routine to keep my arms and back strong.

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