Latino beautiful sick girl in pajamas getting up from sleep in bedroom.
The Best Way to Get Out of Bed with Less Pain After Cancer Surgery


Recovering from cancer surgery involves a good amount of rest and targeted exercise to regain movement of the surgical area. Many people are focused on the “best exercises” to do after surgery (which is important) but take for granted the importance of everyday activities. Cancer surgery recovery is not just about WHAT to do, but also HOW to do it.

“Get out of bed and walk about” multiple times a day. Yes… this is extremely important (and great advice!) However, the question remains on how you should get out of bed without increasing your pain or being fearful to move (due to pain.)


This blog with explore the best ways to transition in and out of your bed and chair after cancer surgery. Though this blog is intended to help those facing or recovering from cancer surgery, these techniques are equally helpful after other forms or surgery or injury.

It’s All About Pressure

When you hold your breath to move, this increases pressure in your belly and chest. This increased pressure puts a lot of extra strain on your body, including your surgical area.  If your cancer surgery impacted any part of your torso (e.g. chest/breast, back, belly, groin, etc.), this increase in pressure can cause a lot of pain and make it difficult to get up with ease.


Think of your belly like a pressure cooker; if we can first release pressure from the pressure cooker, then your body will move with less stiffness, less pain and more ease.  The good news is that releasing pressure is relatively simple; you can simply breathe out to accomplish this (see below.)  THIS is the biggest trick to getting in and out of bed properly after your cancer surgery.

2 Tricks for Getting In & Out of Bed:

Exhale with the Effort

Our automatic response is to hold our breath when something hurts (or even when we think something is going to hurt), but this only further tightens our body and makes the pain worse.  Instead, remember to “Exhale with the Effort.”  Just before you are about to move, start exhaling/breathing out.


Roll like a Log

Sometimes the softness of the mattress can cause us to turn and twist our bodies when getting out of bed; unfortunately this too can increase pain and discomfort.  As much as possible, think of your body like a log when getting out of bed; let your arms and legs move together (and with your torso) to avoid twisting and turning through your body.

5 Steps for Getting OUT of Bed:

Step 1: Set Up Your Space


Before you begin your journey out of bed, it’s helpful to remove all pillows and blankets that may get in your way.  Clear your path for an easier exit.


Step 2: Choose Your Side


You are going to get out of bed by first rolling onto your side.  Knowing which side will be more comfortable for you will be helpful.  Typically, most people prefer to roll so that their surgical side is up.


Step 3: Log Roll to Your Preferred Side


Next, think of your body like a log and roll yourself to your preferred side all at once; move your arms and legs together so you don’t twist through your body.  Don’t forget to Exhale with the Effort…. start exhaling before you start rolling. 


Step 4:  Sitting Up


It’s helpful to use your arms to sit up.  You can use the elbow of the arm you’re lying on and possibly the hand of the top arm, placed in front of you on the mattress. If your top arm has been impacted by surgery, you can leave it by your side and just use the bottom elbow or use lighter pressure with that arm.


Again, think of sitting up in one motion, trying to move your torso like a log (ie. minimizing twisting/turning of your body).  Begin to Exhale with the Effort, and then use your arms to help sit you up.  Don’t forget to swing your legs off the edge of the bed at the same time.


Step 5: Standing Up


If you’re dizzy from sitting up, take a few moments to rest here until it passes.  Then, scoot your bottom forward until you’re near the edge of bed to get yourself set up.  Exhale with the Effort, lean your body forward and stand up.  You can also use your hands to push up on the bed to get you going.

How to Get IN to Bed

Instead of re-wording everything above, work your way backwards through the steps above.  Just remember your 2 principles: (1) Exhale with the Effort and (2) Roll like a Log!

Want more information?

If you’d like to see this transition “in action”, head over to my YouTube Page for a video showing you exactly how to get in and out of bed safely after cancer surgery.


This technique is one of several that I review in my online program for Breast Cancer Surgery and Recovery.  I have several detailed handouts that also discuss positioning yourself for comfort in the early days after surgery.  Click here to learn more about this program.


Until next time, be well.



Disclaimer – These blogs are for general information purposes only.  Medical information changes daily, so information contained within these blogs may become outdated over time. In addition, please be aware that the information contained in these blogs is not intended as a substitute for medical advice or treatment and you should always consult a licensed health care professional for advice specific to your treatment or condition.  Any reliance you place on this information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

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