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Why consult an osteopath after breast surgery?

Breast surgery, whether performed for medical reasons such as breast cancer treatment, or for cosmetic procedures such as breast reduction, represents a significant moment in a patient's life. While modern surgical techniques aim to minimize physical impact, recovery phases can nevertheless present challenges such as pain, reduced mobility and scarring. It is in this context that osteopathy proves to be a valuable therapeutic complement, offering a holistic approach that can significantly improve post-operative well-being.

Osteopathy, with its gentle manual techniques, is not limited to treating isolated symptoms, but aims to restore the body's overall balance. It can play a crucial role not only in improving mobility and reducing pain, but also in facilitating better lymphatic drainage and preventing the formation of adhesions. This first contact with osteopathy as a partner in recovery after breast surgery opens the door to a series of beneficial interventions that will be explored in detail in this article.

Understanding breast surgery

Breast surgery in figures

Breast surgery, including implant placement, reconstruction and other procedures such as lipofilling, is practiced on a notable scale around the world. Here are some key statistics on these procedures:

  • Breast augmentation: This procedure is one of the world's most common cosmetic surgery operations. In 2022, around 2.2 million breast augmentation procedures were performed, marking a significant 29% increase on the previous year(Home).

  • Breast reconstruction: Breast reconstruction remains an important option for women following mastectomy for breast cancer. Precise statistics for the year 2022 show that these operations continue to account for a considerable proportion of surgical procedures performed each year.

  • Breast lipofilling: Lipofilling, which involves transferring fat from a part of the body to the breasts to improve their appearance or reconstruct the breast after a mastectomy, is gaining in popularity as a less invasive option.

  • Implant removal: In terms of breast implant removals, the US has seen a significant increase in implant removal cases, from 38,071 cases in 2015 to 71,284 cases in 2021, an 87% increase in six years(Surgical Times).

  • Implant preferences: Preference for implant types has also shifted, with a marked decrease in the use of saline implants, from 65% in 2007 to just 16% in 2020, and a corresponding increase in silicone implants from 35% to 84% over the same period(Surgical Times).

These data demonstrate not only the continuing popularity of breast surgery procedures, but also the evolution of practices and preferences in this field.

Types of breast surgery

Breast surgery encompasses a variety of procedures designed to modify the appearance, size and shape of the breasts. Whether for aesthetic or reconstructive reasons, these procedures are increasingly refined and personalized. Here's an overview of the different types of breast surgery commonly performed:

Breast augmentation

Breast augmentation, or augmentation mammoplasty, is one of the most popular cosmetic surgeries. It involves the insertion of implants to increase the size and improve the shape of the breasts.

osteo breast augmentation

Breast reduction

Breast reduction is sought by women suffering from physical and aesthetic problems due to oversized breasts, such as back and neck pain, skin irritation and difficulty finding suitable clothing. This procedure reduces breast size by removing excess fatty, glandular and cutaneous tissue, which also helps to improve symmetry and lighten the weight on the chest.

Mastopexy (breast lift) for breast ptosis

Mastopexy, or breast lift, is a procedure designed to lift and reshape sagging breasts. It is often chosen after significant weight loss, pregnancy or as a natural consequence of aging. This technique can be performed with or without the insertion of implants, depending on existing breast volume and patient preference.

Breast reconstruction

breast reconstruction osteo versailles

Breast reconstruction is a complex procedure for women who have undergone a mastectomy due to breast cancer or other diseases. It aims to restore the natural appearance of the breast, using a variety of techniques that may include implants, tissue grafts, or more advanced techniques such as autologous tissue transfer (using tissue from other parts of the patient's body).

Gynecomastia (breast reduction for men)

Gynecomastia is a surgical procedure that reduces breast size in men, a condition that can result from hormonal imbalances, certain medications, or being overweight. This surgery often involves liposuction and excision to remove excess fatty and glandular tissue.

Changing implants

This type of surgery is performed when previously inserted implants need to be replaced due to complications, such as implant rupture, or simply because the patient wishes to change implant size or type.

Common physical impacts of breast surgery

Breast surgery, whether cosmetic or reconstructive, can have significant effects on the body. While these interventions can greatly improve quality of life and self-esteem, they are still major procedures that require a clear understanding of the potential physical impacts.

Pain and sensitivity

After breast surgery, it is common to experience pain and increased sensitivity in the operated area. This pain can vary in intensity, lasting from a few days to several weeks, depending on the extent of the operation and the techniques used. Pain further away from the area may also occur.

Swelling and bruising

Swelling and bruising are normal body reactions to surgery. Swelling can last several weeks, and sometimes months. Bruising, on the other hand, tends to disappear after a few weeks. Wearing a compression bra can help manage these symptoms and support healing tissue.


All breast surgeries leave scars, although their size and visibility can vary considerably. The location of incisions and the method of closure can influence the appearance of scars. Over time, scars tend to fade, but it's important to manage them early to reduce adhesions and improve aesthetics.

Change of sensation

Sensitivity in the breasts and nipples may change after surgery. Some patients report an increase in sensitivity, while others may experience a decrease or total loss of sensation. These changes may be temporary or permanent.

Impaired ability to breastfeed

Breast surgery, particularly breast reduction and certain types of breast lift, can affect the ability to breastfeed. Milk ducts and nerves can be disrupted during surgery, which can reduce milk production or make breastfeeding difficult.

Osteopathy and breast surgery

Osteopath after breast surgery

Principles of osteopathy

Osteopathy is a form of manual therapy that focuses on strengthening the relationship between structure and function in the human body. It uses non-invasive techniques to improve mobility and the circulation of body fluids, thus promoting a natural healing process. Osteopathic principles are based on a holistic understanding of the patient, treating the body as an integrated unit.

Benefits of osteopathy after breast surgery

In the context of post-operative management after breast surgery, osteopathy can play a crucial role in helping to reduce pain, ease tension and restrictions of movement, and improve lymphatic and blood circulation in affected areas. Gentle manipulations can help minimize scar formation and adhesions, promoting a faster and more complete recovery. In addition, osteopathy can help restore overall body balance, often disturbed after surgery, by readjusting musculoskeletal structures and supporting the body's self-regulatory mechanisms.

Improved mobility

After breast surgery, patients may experience stiffness and restricted movement in the shoulders, upper back and chest area. These limitations can be due to a number of factors, including fear of movement after surgery, scar formation, and altered posture to compensate for pain and muscle imbalance. Osteopathy, using techniques such as gentle manipulation, stretching and fascia work, helps to release tension and improve range of motion. These interventions can restore mobility to affected joints and realign the body for optimal function.

Pain reduction

Pain management is another essential component of osteopathy in post-operative breast surgery. Osteopathic techniques aim to reduce muscle tension and improve blood and lymph circulation, which can help reduce inflammation and feelings of pain. For example, specific manipulations can help relieve compression points that contribute to pain, while lymphatic drainage techniques can reduce swelling and promote the elimination of toxins and metabolic waste, thus contributing to a reduction in pain.

Osteopathy's holistic and individualized approach also enables us to adapt to the specific needs of each patient, taking into account not only the physical symptoms but also the psychological aspects associated with recovery after surgery. By treating the patient as a whole, osteopathy promotes a more harmonious and effective recovery, helping patients to return to an optimal quality of life more quickly.

Scar and adhesion reduction

Reducing scarring and adhesions after breast surgery is an area where osteopathy can offer significant benefits. Scars and adhesions are common consequences of surgery, resulting from the body's natural healing processes. However, they can limit mobility and cause pain, affecting patients' quality of life. Here's how osteopathy tackles these problems:

  • Soft tissue manipulations: Osteopaths use gentle manipulation techniques to mobilize and stretch the skin and underlying tissues around scars. This can help make tissues less rigid and improve their elasticity, thus reducing the appearance and texture of scars.

  • Manual lymphatic drainage: This technique is designed to stimulate the circulation of lymphatic fluid around the scar zone. By promoting better lymphatic drainage, we can reduce swelling and encourage the dissipation of substances that contribute to the formation of thick scars or keloids.

  • Myofascial release techniques: These techniques are designed to release tension in the fascia, a layer of connective tissue that envelops muscles and other internal structures. By releasing fascial restrictions, we can reduce the internal pulls that promote adhesions and improve tissue flexibility and movement.

Adhesions are bands of scar tissue that can form between tissues and organs in the operated area, often in response to surgery. They can restrict movement and cause pain by pulling on tissues during movement.

  • Mobilization techniques: The osteopath can apply specific techniques to gently mobilize affected tissues, helping to loosen adhesions. This can improve mobility and reduce the pain associated with adhesions.

  • Patient education and therapeutic exercises: Osteopaths often advise on specific exercises that patients can do at home to maintain tissue mobility, prevent adhesion formation, or reduce the impact of adhesions already formed.

By integrating these techniques into a post-operative treatment plan, osteopathy can play an essential role in managing and minimizing scarring and adhesions. This can significantly improve patient comfort, mobility and, by extension, quality of life after breast surgery.

Conclusion on osteopathy and breast surgery

Breast surgery, whether for medical or aesthetic reasons, marks a turning point in the lives of those who undergo it. Modern surgical techniques aim to minimize physical effects, but recovery can reveal challenges such as pain, reduced mobility and scarring. Faced with these challenges, osteopathy proves to be a valuable therapeutic complement. By adopting a holistic approach, it goes beyond treating isolated symptoms to restoring the body's overall balance.

The role of osteopathy in breast surgery recovery is undeniable. By improving mobility, reducing pain, facilitating better lymphatic drainage and preventing adhesion formation, this practice offers a spectrum of beneficial interventions that support the healing process. These gentle manual techniques contribute to a faster, more complete recovery, helping patients to regain functionality and improve their quality of life.

In short, integrating osteopathy into the care pathway after breast surgery can significantly transform patients' recovery experience. It represents a body-friendly approach that aligns with individual needs for successful physical and emotional rehabilitation. Patients are thus encouraged to consider this therapeutic option as a complement to their traditional medical follow-up, in order to maximize the results of their surgery and reduce post-operative complications.

Marie Messager
Osteopath D.O
2 rue Alexis de Tocqueville
78000 Versailles

Marie messager osteopath versailles

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