Breast Implants: Physical Therapy for Capsular Contracture

American women are getting breast implant surgery more than ever before. In 2010 alone, 296,203 American women had breast augmentation. And all of these women should be aware of a side effect that can significantly dampen a woman’s pride in her new breasts: capsular contracture.

Posted on | Luke Bongiorno, PT | Comments ()

American women are getting breast implant surgery more than ever before. In 2010 alone, 296,203 American women had breast augmentation. And all of these women should be aware of a side effect that can significantly dampen a woman’s pride in her new breasts: capsular contracture.

Capsular contracture affects around 5% of women with breast augmentations. Capsular contracture occurs when scar tissue develops under the skin located around a breast implant, forming what is known as a tissue capsule. This can be a painful and embarrassing condition that causes distortion and discomfort in the breast.

In some cases, capsular contracture can be treated non-surgically by an experienced physical therapist. Using a specialized combination of manual therapy techniques, the therapist can break down the scar tissue, allowing a woman to avoid a corrective surgery.

We encourage women who are showing signs of capsular contracture to see a physical therapist as soon as the condition is diagnosed in order to guarantee the most effective non-surgical treatment possible. The earlier the capsular contracture is detected and treated, the better.

Due to the sensitive nature of capsular contracture, it is important to find a physical therapist that understands the condition. In my office, patients with capsular contracture only see a specially trained female therapist. Through massage techniques, stretches, exercises and instruction about the correct use of compression bandages, a specialized physical therapy program can help to break down capsular contracture tissue without surgery.

Symptoms of capsular contracture include hardness, swelling and pain in the breast. A capsular contracture will usually develop three months after the implant has been inserted, though it may develop at any time over the lifetime of the implant. Women are sometimes reluctant to report this condition to their doctor. This may stem from a fear of a second surgery.

Treating capsular contracture with physical therapy requires a multi-phased approach. Treatment begins with a thorough examination to identify areas of restriction and contracture. Your physical therapist will also coordinate with your surgeon to ensure that you are getting the proper treatment. Your visits to the studio will consist of a series of mobilization techniques and a stretching regimen to soften the breast tissue and release the contracture. The therapist will provide instructions on how to perform the stretches and apply the compression bandages at home, a practice that will accelerate recovery between in-studio visits.

Early treatment is crucial to maximizing the effectiveness of physical therapy to treat capsular contracture. Experienced physical therapists can help you to avoid a second surgery.

Blog written by Luke Bongiorno, PT
Luke Bongiorno is one of New York’s highest regarded physical therapists. He is an owner and the managing director at NY Sports...