by Founder Elizabeth Vivenzio


Medical research indicates that women benefit significantly from upper extremity rehabilitation after mastectomy. I cannot stress enough the importance of finding a breast rehabilitation specialist, which could be either a physical therapist or an occupational therapist who focuses on this sub-specialty. The goal of breast rehabilitation is to restore the patient to the highest level of functioning.

Mastectomy has a significant impact on upper body strength and it impairs the function of the upper extremities. Many simply adjust to the limited range of motion, muscle aches and swelling and sadly accept such limitations as par for the course.

Muscle Contracture after Breast Reconstruction

Muscle contracture after breast surgery often manifests as:

  • shoulder pain, which can be complicated by inflammation (tendonitis and frozen shoulder syndrome)
  • pain in the chest and sternum
  • tightness and pain in the pectoral muscles, especially with breast expanders.
  • (The unnatural stretching of pectoral muscles with expanders affects other connecting muscles. Increased tension and lack of enervation to the tissue often causes pain and spasms of the pectoral muscles and others muscles surrounding it.)

Components of a Breast Rehabilitation Center

Components of a comprehensive breast rehabilitation program include the following modalities, the selection of which depends on individual needs and individual assessments:

  • Range-of-motion exercises
  • Manual manipulation (Massage and Compression)
  • Scar Tissue Massage and Release
  • Manual Lymph Drainage(MLD) Massage
  • Strength Training
  • Heat and Cold Packs
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical Stimulation (TENS, NMES, Hi-Volt)
  • Lymphedema Prevention Education
  • Therapeutic Massage

Part of a comprehensive breast rehabilitation program is therapeutic massage. As a result of mastectomy or other breast surgery, the musculature of the entire upper body region is affected by guarding, which means it recoils from discomfort by tensing up and forming knots and tightness. A therapeutic massage specialist will glide over the affected muscles to relieve the fascia and connective tissue. Such myofascial release and kneading releases the muscle tenseness. Also, scar tissue manipulation by a therapeutic massage specialist can reduce hardened lumps of tissue under the skin.

Conditions Especially Helped through Breast Rehabilitation

  • Post-Mastectomy Pain (PMP) Syndrome
    Post-Mastectomy Pain Syndrome (PMPS) is diagnosed in women with ongoing pain and muscle tightness in the chest wall, shoulder, arm or underarm. This is a medically recognized condition with a specific ICD-9 code (457.1) for insurance reimbursement. The pain of PMPS is attributed to inflammation along the intercostal-brachial nerve, a peripheral nerve leading to tributaries that branch into the armpit and upper arm. Pain, numbness and burning can result.
  • Lymphedema
    Mastectomy and breast cancer patients who have had a lymph node dissection are at risk for developing lymphedema. When lymphatic fluid is blocked and cannot drain properly, swelling occurs in the arms, legs, or trunk. Certified specialists, either at your breast rehabilitation center, or at your hospital can control lymphedema using very specific treatment that includes manual lymphatic therapy and compression bandaging of the limb.

Benefits of Breast Rehabilitation

Benefits of a breast rehabilitation program include:

  • Reduce Pain and Swelling
  • Restore Function
  • Restore Full Range of Motion
  • Build Strength
  • Lessen Scar Tissue
  • Accelerate Overall Healing
  • Increase Self Esteem
  • Encourage Mindful Healing
  • Develop Coping Skills
  • Reduce Lymphedema Risk
  • Treat Lymphedema Complications
  • Prevent Capsular Contraction

Find a Breast Healing Center

We are developing a listing of comprehensive breast rehabilitation centers that meet the criteria of our model center, the Breast Rehabilitation & Healing Center in Westwood, NJ.

Kelli Anderson

Kelli Anderson

(To add your center to the listing, read the Register a Breast Healing Center tab on this page.)

Breast Rehabilitation & Healing Center
99 Kinderkamack Road, Suite 211
Westwood, NJ 07675
Phone: 201-497-6175
Contact: Kelli Anderson, OTR/L, CHT, CLT
The Pink Ribbon Program
825 Bloomfield Ave., Suite 205
Verona, NJ 07004
toll-free: 888-445-3089 // 973-993-5799
Contact: Dooreen Puglisi, Founder, Pink Ribbon Program>
Founder of the Pink Ribbon Program

Founder of the Pink Ribbon Program

Register a Breast Healing Center

To register your breast rehabilitation center, Email Katie at with the following information:

Phone Number
Web Site Address