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Pain Management

Breast Augmentation and Pain


By Venice Sullivan, Ph.D, NCMT

As you know, I have spent many years specializing in soft tissue pain relief and rehabilitation.  This article is meant to be thought provoking for those who are considering breast augmentation.  This information perhaps may not be found from other sources.  For those who have had augmentation, you may better understand some of the issues you have experienced and not known how or where they evolved from.  Symptoms do not appear quickly or all at once, and are not the same for every woman.  Pain and dysfunction may not always be associated with the breast augmentation.  Some symptoms are not unique to breast augmentation alone.  However, I have found some of them in nearly all clients with this type of cosmetic surgery.  These observations that I have made working with hundreds of clients in my 25 years in the neuromuscular massage therapy field.

As more women opted for breast augmentation, I began to notice specific patterns with my clients.  The benefit of a group practice – like HOPE Wellness Institute – is the opportunity to compare my findings and insights with other therapists.  Are others seeing the same thing?  As a group, here are a few of the observations in common:

  • Pain in the back, between the shoulder blades
  • Neck pain
  • Rounded shoulders
  • Inability to inhale deeply
  • Breast and chest area become so sensitive and painful that they cannot be touched

The good news is that Neuromuscular Massage Therapy may alleviate most of these symptoms.  You do not have to live with the pain patterns.  No matter which type of incision or how the implants are placed, whether on top of muscle or under it, the implant stretches the skin and the fascia.  Anytime you mess with the fascia; it causes adhesions, and any surgery will result in some scar tissue.  Each of these can create trigger points and cause pain.

If the implant is placed under the muscle, this causes immediate stretching of the muscle, which in turn pulls on the collar bone and the front of the upper arm, bringing them both forward.  This forward pull of the upper arms results in over-stretching of the muscles on the back of the arms attached to the shoulder blades, further causing the muscles between the shoulder blades and the spine to also be over-stretched. A chain reaction!  Because of arm and hand dominance, one shoulder is pulled forward out of alignment and balance.  This results in some curvature and twist of the spine.  As for the collar bone, anterior pull results in the upper shoulder and neck muscles becoming taut.  This extends the head and neck forward, which can develop headaches, migraines and jaw problems.  Eventually disc and nerve issues may result.  As nerves and discs become involved other issues can evolve including sight, equilibrium and digestive problems.  What a domino effect!

Reasonably, the ribs must adjust or migrate due to the new unnatural pressure put on them.  Your ribs should normally feel like flat surfaces.  With breast augmentation, ribs may rotate up so they feel more like knife edges.  It is also not uncommon for the ribcage to be pushed backwards.  This may result in breathing issues and back pain because the ligaments become stretched where the ribs connect to the spine.

An integral part of Neuromuscular Therapy is the structural evaluation.  This helps us understand the cause of pain, develop a plan to reduce it, and not just treat the painful site.  Not addressing the root cause may result in more pain and dysfunction.  Here are some of the general things we look for when working with upper back and neck pain:

Looking at the body from the side, it should be stacked like blocks with the:

  • The center of the ear,
  • The center of the shoulder
  • The center of the pelvis
  • The center of the knee
  • The center of the ankle joint

all in a straight plumb line.

NMT Therapists use more specific landmarks but for illustration, this is close.  The rounded shoulders and a forward head posture post augmentation would position the shoulders and head in front of the lower body, probably causing discomfort.

Because we are told the expected pros and cons of cosmetic surgery from one point of view, typically the long term effects 10-15 years out may not be known.  We are seeing more discomfort than was anticipated.  If you or someone you know is having pain or any complications from breast augmentation surgery, our certified massage therapists are here to help.  We can help restore balance to the body.  And if you are considering breast augmentation surgery, hopefully this information is helpful.  Call us today for an appointment to help you live a more comfortable life.

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