After having a mastectomy, bruising and swelling around the breast and under the arms is pretty common. Finding ways to reduce discomfort and speed up the healing process is crucial during the weeks following your procedure. Cooling ice packs can be one of the best ways to do this.
In this article, we’ll answer some commonly asked questions using ice packs after surgery. We’ll break down the potential benefits, how cold therapy works, and how you can use cold therapy at home to relieve pain and speed healing.
Let's dive in.
Is it safe to use ice packs after having a mastectomy?
Many doctors recommend ice packs for swelling after surgery. However, others advise against it. It’s important that you listen to your surgeon’s advice for post-mastectomy aftercare. They know your body and medical situation best.
Only follow our advice about using ice packs if you have been given the okay by your doctor. If ice pack use hasn’t been mentioned, be sure to ask before you leave the hospital.
What are the benefits to using ice packs after a mastectomy?
There are numerous benefits to apply ice on swollen areas. In general, ice helps to:
- Reduce swelling
- Soothe pain by numbing the area
- Slow the flow of fluids in the area
- Increase mobility in areas like armpit
All of this translates to a better overall healing experience, helping you along the road to recovery.
How does cold therapy work?
Cold therapy is the act of using ice or cold compresses on your body to activate it's natural response to cold. When the body is cold, your blood vessels constrict, which reduces swelling. It's like turning on your body's natural anti-swell system! While it may be a little uncomfortable feeling at first, after a few minutes a cold compress can also help to numb pain.
How do I use cold therapy at home?
To apply your ice pack, it's suggested to:
- Apply regularly in the days following your procedure. Be sure to check with your medical staff first to make sure there are no concerns.
- Ice breasts for 10 to 20 minutes when swelling or pain is at its worst.
- Always put a cloth or paper towel between the ice pack and your skin to prevent damage to the skin. We love our ice pack bra for this!
Using caution with ice packs after breast surgery
Even if your doctor has approved the use of ice packs, it’s always good to exercise caution. The surgery likely caused nerve damage to the chest region, changing the way you feel sensations like cold. If the ice pack ever causes pain, remove it immediately.
Are there any other ways to use ice packs?
Yes! Even if your doctor instructs you not to use cold packs at the surgical site, there are still other ways to use ice packs to make you feel more comfortable in your healing journey.
Hot flashes are a common side effect of breast cancer treatment due to changes in hormone production. Ice packs can be used to combat these effects. Cooling packs can be placed around the neck or other areas of the body and provide much needed relief when a heat wave is coming on.
Can you heat ice packs to make a warm compress?
Not all ice packs can be heated, but some can, including the Brobe gel packs. Warm compresses can also be used to bring relief to sore areas. But again, it’s always important to consult your doctor before using heated packs around your surgical site.
Heal comfortably with The Brobe
We recommend finding a garment that can hold your ice packs for you after your procedure if possible. This will allow for the even application of cold therapy to the areas that need it most. We love the ice pack bra included with the Brobe Recovery Robe for this purpose. It has pockets specifically designed to hold gel ice packs in place during recovery so you can get hands-free relief.
Brobe’s Thermal Comfort Pillow also has a pocket designed for the gel pack, allowing you to feel cooling or warming comfort wherever you need it on the body.
We hope this quick tip helps make your recovery a little more seamless. Good luck!