Background about the Pink Ribbon Program:
Pink Ribbon Program is a Pilates-based rehabilitation program for post-operative breast cancer survivors which is designed to help survivors regain movement, strength, comfort and confidence during their recovery. Survivors face many physical challenges after undergoing breast cancer surgery and treatment, which are often compounded by the emotional stress that results from living with a life-threatening condition. Pilates provides an exercise technique that can help both mind and body recover and rehabilitate at a gradual and comfortable pace.
The Pink Ribbon Program is designed to facilitate recovery from breast cancer surgery including lumpectomy, mastectomy and breast cancer reconstructive surgeries. It can also reduce the formation of lymphedema. Clients often think that exercise may be the last thing they want to do only a few weeks after having breast cancer surgery. They can be exhausted, swollen, in pain, and may be undergoing some treatments can make them feel even worse.
Studies indicate a link between physical exercise and improved quality of life for breast cancer survivors. Classes focus on gentle movement to increase range of motion and decrease pain and swelling. Clients may use this program in conjunction with, or as a follow-up to any prescribed physical therapy. Generally, clients will need to be at least six weeks out from any surgeries prior to starting the program but the program is also suitable even if surgery was several years ago.
This exercise program was designed by Doreen Puglisi, a survivor herself, holds a master’s in exercise science, and is a Pilates instructor, certified personal trainer and chairperson of the health and exercise science department at Morris County College. We offer two versions of the Pink Ribbon Program at SOMA Movement Studio; one is the exercise program for breast cancer survivors (described below) and the other is a training program for rehabilitation and exercise professionals wishing to gain specialized training in working with this special population (click here to go to the professionals training section).
What the sessions are like:
The Pink Ribbon exercise program is a six week program that is designed to begin about six weeks postoperatively, after scars have healed and the client has been cleared by their surgeons and physicians for exercise. The program includes a full health history and a functional assessment. That information used to create a program specific for the patient. It can be done privately or in small groups, though the assessment is private.
After the assessment, the client begins the actual exercise program. The exercise program is mostly done on mats with props (like light weights, Pilates Rings, foam rollers, resistance bands, etc). Occasionally, at SOMA Movement Studio, we may incorporate some work on the Cadillac/Trapeze Table to assist and guide clients through movements if they are challenged with a particular exercise. The six week program is divided into three phases, each about two weeks long.
- Phase 1, the goal is regaining range of motion and moving pain free.
- Phase 2, we’re still focusing on the affected area, but incorporating more integrated full body movement. We want clients to feel like a whole person.
- Phase 3 looks more like Pilates—there’s a strength component. It’s a gradual process, but patients should gain a lot of range of motion after the six weeks, should have a reduced amount of pain, and feel like they’re getting back to who they were before.
Phases can be repeated if the client needs more time to progress. Pilates offers a gentle, low-impact reintroduction or first-time introduction to regular exercise that can help one regain strength and endurance. The ultimate goal of the Pink Ribbon Program is to get breast cancer survivors to move beyond Pink Ribbon to mainstream forms of exercise.
Benefits that Pink Ribbon Program clients at SOMA Movement Studio can expect:
- Fatigue, both during and after cancer treatment, is the biggest issue many breast cancer survivors face. Many women feel unable to function and perform daily activities while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments, and this fatigue can be overwhelming as treatments are combined and surgery is added to the mix.
Pilates offers a gentle, low-impact reintroduction or first-time introduction to regular exercise that can help one regain strength and endurance. To perform Pilates exercises correctly, you must concentrate. The benefits will become obvious if you keep at it and gradually build up by performing the exercises at least two days a week. We offer Pink Ribbon Progrm classes at SOMA Movement Studio on Tuesdays and Thursdays and encourage clients to develop a home practice in addition to the in-studio classes.
- Pain and loss of range of motion in the shoulder and chest are common issues for survivors who are considering exercise after treatment. Many Pilates exercises are performed lying down with the neck and back on either a mat on the floor or an elevated therapeutic exercise table, with various cushions or bolsters as necessary until the neck and the back are relaxed. Once the client is able to be comfortable lying down to exercise, it is much easier to feel which muscles are working and to ensure that you are using a natural muscle activation pattern rather than one that is perturbed due to trauma and scarring. Exercises done in this supported fashion return the normal relationship between the arm, scapula (wing bone), and your chest so you can then proceed to strengthening the shoulder girdle in a safe, comfortable manner, which helps in regaining correct muscular balance.
- Posture is another area of concern for many survivors after surgery. Often a client’s back will become rounded following surgery, and their shoulders and head flexed and translated/pitched forward. Pilates teaches you to resume an erect posture with a neutral spine and then works on restoring strength. Because the exercises demand that you concentrate on how your body feels when it is correctly aligned, each exercise is performed efficiently and with control. There are also specific Pilates exercises that emphasize body extension, that can help lengthen the tight chest muscles while strengthening the back. These exercises help in regaining proper muscle balance and strength in the torso.
- Lymphedema, or the backup of fluid in the affected arm, is also common after surgery for breast cancer, especially if lymph node dissection is necessary. Many women who have had lymph nodes removed as part of their breast cancer treatment are warned about not exercising the arm vigorously and told to protect the arm from trauma and repetitive use. They may also be told not to lift heavy weights. Consequently, the arm becomes weaker, and survivors are often unable to perform daily activities or engage in previously enjoyed leisure pursuits. It is important to strengthen the arm gradually teaching clients to do exercises in a particular sequence so that muscular contractions help propel lymphatic fluid back towards the torso so it can more easily return to your body's circulation.
Pilates is a great fit for what breast cancer survivors need during recovery. Pilates works in terms of full range of motion, integrated movement, proper breathing. A lot emphasis is placed on scapular stability, shoulder range of motion, and re-establishing the natural movement patterns that occur between the affected arm, shoulder and torso.
If you would like someone from the SOMA Movement Studio to contact you about learning more about or starting the Pink Ribbon Program, fill out the form below and someone will get in contact with you within 24 business hours.