Exercise After Latissimus Dorsi Flap Reconstruction

smiling beautiful teenage woman exercising in gym with trainer

A latissimus dorsi flap reconstruction is usually performed after a breast has been removed due, for example, to cancer. The latissimus dorsi muscle extends from your back, over your shoulder blade, and under your armpit. The reconstruction procedure involves taking a piece of the muscle and sliding it around to your chest, where it is shaped into a breast and sewn into place, says Breastcancer.org.


According to the Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, you should be able to start light activity about three to four weeks after surgery. You will also be prescribed arm and shoulder exercises by your physiotherapist to restore strength and range of motion to the injured muscle. You should avoid doing any heavy lifting for at least six weeks after surgery. Before starting any rehabilitation exercises, check with your doctor or physiotherapist and stop immediately if you feel any pain.

Basic Strengthening Exercise

In the early stages of rehabilitation, the following exercise improves strength and promotes healing. Kneel down and loop a resistance band securely around a sturdy table leg or door handle. Take hold of the ends in both hands. Starting with straight arms, then bend your elbows to slowly draw your hands in to your waist. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a couple of seconds; then straighten your arms and return to the starting position. Aim to do three sets of 10 repetitions.

Advanced Strengthening Exercise

You should only progress to this exercise once you can perform the basic strengthening exercise with ease, says PhysioAdvisor.com. You will need an exercise ball and a light hand weight. Position the ball under your shoulder blades and plant your feet firmly on the floor, with your knees bent at right angles. Hold the hand weight in both hands and raise it straight up in front of you, directly above your shoulders. Then slowly lower it back over your head -- only go as far as you can without causing pain. Return your arms to the starting position, and complete three sets of 10 repetitions. Make sure you keep your back and the ball still throughout the movement.

Shoulder Stretch

Gentle stretches for your back and shoulder will help improve the flexibility of your latissimus dorsi muscle. A good beginner’s stretch involves placing your injured arm on a wall, just above shoulder height, and using your fingers to inch your hand higher. You should feel a gentle stretch across your shoulder blade. Only go as far as you can without causing pain, but gradually increase the height of your hand as your flexibility improves.

Range of Motion Exercise

To improve the mobility of your back and shoulder, stand to the side of a table, placing your uninjured arm on it for support. Bend over so that your injured arm is hanging straight down; then gently swing it forward and backward 10 times. Repeat the movement, this time from side to side. Next do arm circles in both directions, starting with small movements and gradually increasing them as your range of motion improves.