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Arthritis after Chemo

Posts: 8
Joined: Jun 2010

I finished my chemo treatments in October 2010, A/C and Taxol. In the past two months, I've started to experience a lot of pain and stiffness in the thumb on my right hand as well as in my back. I'm taking therapy on my thumb but so far it hasn't improved.

When I started my chemo treatments my oncologist told me that if one has arthritis the chemo will help, but unfortunately afterwards it will get worse. I had no arthritis in my thumb before treatment but I did have some in my back. I am 61 years old.

Has anyone else experienced this or been told that chemo helps arthritis pain during treatment but makes it worse after? I've talked to several breast cancer survivors, but none of them have experienced arthritis after treatment.

new2me's picture
Posts: 176
Joined: Jun 2010

I'm only 51 and experienced terrible pain. But it didn't start until about 2 months ago. My last treatment was Oct 2010 - I had no previous arthritis problems before chemo. But 2 weeks after my last treatment I had neuropathy in my fingers bad - I would wake me up in the night crying it hurt so bad. It pain would shoot all the way up my arm to my albow almost like I had carpool tunnel. Each joint in my fingers hurt so bad, I couldn't even hold hands with my husband it hurt too much. Slowly and I mean ssssllloooowwwwlyyy did it go way but now that pain is gone the joint in my left thumbs severely hurts. I can barely hold a glass of water in that hand. And if I move it wrong the pain is undescribable. when I can't tolerate it anymore I take Naproxen and It feels sooo much better. My Dr. suggest I try sesame oil and message it in. I can't tell a difference but I've only have been doing this for 1 week - he told me to try it for 2 weeks then let him know. He says not everything works for everyone and we have to find what works for me. Ugh !!! I'm praying this too goes away like the neuropathy. It seems like when one pain goes away another springs up. Also for me, it's hard to go from sitting on the ground to standing up. Wow !! and I use to be a powerwalker and jogger !!!
Hopefully someone else will post with something else that I can try too. :)

Posts: 3388
Joined: Aug 2009

I too had A/C and then Taxol. I've had arthritis in my back for many years but it never bothered me (showed on x-rays) until after Chemo and rads. It got worse (at least I started feeling it) after Chemo and rads but I just put it to getting older (I'm 64 - til next month) and not being as active as usual while going through 'everything'. None of my Drs have suggested that Chemo had anything to do with it.


butterflylvr's picture
Posts: 944
Joined: Apr 2011

I personally haven't had issues regarding arthritis but when I googled it for you girls it brought me to an old CSN thread...

Copy and paste this in your browser and you can read what past warriors have said... sorry I don't know how to make this a link.



mollyz's picture
Posts: 739
Joined: Sep 2010

I feel pain all the time now,my last chemo was January 28,2011 and I hurt all over legs back and in the groin area it's really disabling and before all this i was very active did arobics everyday now i just feel like a old lady. MOLLYZ

Posts: 49
Joined: Feb 2010

I also had AC and taxol last treatment was sept 2010 and i didnt have arthritis in my thumbs until a few months ago its so bad the my knuckles cracked everytime I bend them. I went to orthopedic dr, he said arthritis and I have to wear a brace on both my hands while working and he gave me anti inflamatory meds to take which doesnt help. I also still have nueropathy in my feet from Taxol. Now the gland under my tounge is sweiing when I eat, my ONC always hear me complain about something and this last visit he just brushed me off so I cant wait to see what he will say about this new symptom.

Posts: 633
Joined: Jul 2010

It's been 9 years since my chemo. Before Chemo, yeah, I was a lot younger, BUT I'm not THAT old now (45) and I have arthritis in my back, hips, knees wrists and just about every other joint you can think of! I HATE it. But guess I should be thankful I'm still here, right?!

I've asked my oncologist about it many times. He keeps saying that it probably didn't have anything to do with getting chemo, but that it's age related. I'm sorry, but I just don't buy that! No one in my family has any arthritic conditions. And I find it hard to believe that at 45 it would just appear for no rhyme or reason! So...I'm a 45 year old woman who feels like she's now stuck in a 85 year old body! Ugh!!!


Posts: 232
Joined: Mar 2010

I feel the same as Sally I am convinced the chemo and joint pain is related! I didn't have these symptoms until after treatment! The only relief I get is sitting in a tub of epsom salt and really hot water! But then that makes the night sweats and hot flashes worse! Got to love it!

Posts: 1
Joined: May 2014

arthritus or what ever it may be, I had no probems until after I had finished chemo and radiation, started in  my knee then progressed into my foot, I have no doubt it was caused by something I took for my cancer.

linpsu's picture
Posts: 727
Joined: Mar 2010

My oncologist told me that chemo can make arthritis worse; also that chemo will age you 10 years. I found her to be correct on both counts. I had arthritis in my back and now it is much worse. I had been keeping a journal during chemo and I did notice that I didn't need the medication I was taking for arthritis pain during the A/C regimen, but did use it when I was on Taxol. I thought that was really weird. I am 59. So my experience is similar to yours, in that my arthritis was better temporarily during chemo, but got worse afterwards. Hugs, Linda

jendrey's picture
Posts: 377
Joined: Sep 2009

I finished chemo about June 2010. Nobody, and I mean nobody in my immediate family, or my extended family has arthritis. Except me. Now. (was dx about less than 2 yrs ago @ 44)

I absolutely did not have any hint whatsoever of any kind of any pains before the chemo and now I have arthritis in my hip and neck. The pain is so bad in my hip that I sometimes can't sit or stand and even lying down doesn't help much.

I refuse to believe it "couldn't possibly be from the chemo"...if my oncologist could conceivably get away with it he'd love for me to think that losing my hair couldn't be related to the chemo either.

I sometimes have evil fantasies where I'm wishing he and his minions get to have a few rounds of chemo themselves while I stand idly by and occasionally, maniacally (<--not a real word?), insist he/they are only imagining any perceived side effects.

Hair loss, nausea, neuropathy, arthritis, edema, chemo-brain, and, and, too many to list --Why, of course, these things are all idiopathic!!! More like idiotic.

But, I digress.

Posts: 710
Joined: Mar 2010

At 45 I now have arthritis. Tylenol, and Loratabs are my new friends, only on real bad days. There hasn't been to many real bad days. Stay as active as you can. Use a heating pad this helps me. I also go to a chiropractor, a BIG help. If you can get someone (spouse) to give you a massage.

I feel so weak. My 70yo mom-in-law, and 84yo dad-in-law can outwork me. Now that's bad. Oh well one day at a time.

Posts: 117
Joined: Jul 2009

Do any of you who are also on Tamoxifen think it has anything to do with the joint pain or making your arthritis worse?

I finished chemo in Sept. 2009 and I never had joint pain or arthritis issues before chemo. I didn't really notice any difference during the A/C part of my chemo but the taxol gave me terrible muscle and joint pain which mostly went away after chemo.

After chemo I started having trouble with one hip and knee but is was managable until I started taking Tamoxifen. I started taking Tamoxifen a year and half ago and my hips, back, knees, ankles, etc. have progressively gotten more and more painful. My oncologist says that muscle and bone pain are side effects of tamoxifen but not joint pain. I disagree completely and I'm anxious to test it. This summer I'm having reconstrucive surgery and my surgeon told me I'll have to be off Tamoxifen for about three weeks before and after the surgery so I'm hoping I will be able to see if it makes a difference.

I also had thumb joint pain for a while after chemo but the physical therapist thought it might be concected to the neuropathy that occured as a side effect to Taxol. I think she may have been right because that issue has nearly vanished now.

mwallace1325's picture
Posts: 806
Joined: Apr 2009

Since chemo my hips hurt and it takes me longer to get up and get moving whenever I get up. My husband keeps telling me I need more exercise and I can't get him to understand that it's my joints that hurt, not muscle aches. He's 10 years older than me and doesn't understand why I'm so achy all the time. I'm 57 and my last ct scan showed degeneration of my spine too.

It's gotta be the chemo.


sunshine0406's picture
Posts: 65
Joined: Mar 2011

I also have arthritis pain in my hands, toes, knees and hips (if I sit too long like at a movie). I am only 36. I took carboplatin, abraxane and herceptin. I finished the abraxane and carbo a couple months ago and I still have the pain (not as bad but it is still there). My Dr said that it "can't be the chemo" but she gave me the Ra marker and arthritis marker tests and they both came back negative!! So that leads me to believe that it IS the chemo.

Heatherbelle's picture
Posts: 1224
Joined: Jun 2010

SAME here Sunshine!! I had Andriamycin, Cytoxan, and Taxotere. I was also on tamoxifen for 3 months but then taken off of it. I was also given the RA test and a bone scan & both came back normal. When I was having chemo, i literally did nothing but lay around. I never got sick but the fatigue just wiped me out. I lost alot of muscle mass and strength. Im in physical therapy for 6 weeks to work on building up my leg and core muscles, and im still working with my doctors on narrowing down what's causing me so much pain.

LynnKT's picture
Posts: 47
Joined: Mar 2010

I guess I'll join this bandwagon, too. I now have arthritis in my hand (particularly, my right thumb)and my knees. I took taxotere and cytoxan for chemo. Now I'm on tamoxifen. I'm only 51, but sometimes when I write (I'm right-handed)I feel like an old lady. I had some problems with arth. in my hand before chemo, but it is much worse now. I may have to look into some possible surgical methods to rectify it. I mean, we all have to be able to write! I've just been waiting for all of the dust to settle with the cancer before tackling arthritis.

Heatherbelle's picture
Posts: 1224
Joined: Jun 2010

I was told the EXACT same thing by my former oncologist. I didn't have arthritis when I was diagnosed though (i was 34), but after chemo stopped I started having joint pain and stiffness which got progressively worse. Once it was long past time for me to get feeling better & the pain was still terrible he sent me to a pain management specialist. So far I've had a bone scan which came back normal, and an EMG to test for neuropathy in my hands and feet. The pain I have is mostly in my hands, wrists, knees and hips. I'm in physical therapy twice a week to build up my muscles in my legs, which will hopefully help with my knee/hip pain. According to the EMG i do not have neuropathy in my hands, so we have to figure out what's causing that, or if I do have arthritis in them now. All I know is, I did NOT have these pains before I was diagnosed, and now after treatment, I'm in considerable pain. It's been quite a struggle for me the past few months with it but now I have a new team of doctors who are helping me find out the causes of the pain & helping me fix it! Best of luck to you!

renee616's picture
Posts: 181
Joined: Apr 2011

I didn't ask about arthritis, I knew I had it in my knee, ankles back & small joints, some fingers & knuckles were all already affected before chemo. I haven't had any joint pain since being on chemo....dreading arthritis coming back! I am able to walk & run where as It was stiff & painful to do so before! I was hoping that I was given an exchange....Almost crippling arthritis for cancer....But after reading your posts see that its only a matter of time........

creampuff91344's picture
Posts: 989
Joined: Nov 2008

Well girls. I guess we all must be missing some brain cells, because arthritis seems to be a common link to having chemo. However, oncologists MUST be right when they say that chemo can't be the cause of pain. I had six rounds of TAC back in 2008, and 40 rounds of radiation. Started Femara and then stopped after 4 months because I literally couldn't get up and down because of pain in my left hip. Started Tamoxifen, and the pain got even worse. Now, three years later, I use a chiropractor, massage therapist, hot tub theraphy, and lots of walking and bicycling to keep myself mobile. I have taken every test, CAT scan, MRI, bone scan, etc, that they offer, and nothing shows up as a reason for my pain. So, I have diagnosed myself.....the chemo has caused me to turn into an old lady way before my time. It does help to use all the crutches I have chosen, but I still have a hard time getting out of bed, getting out of a chair or car after sitting a long time, and walk stiff legged (no akkle or knee break) because of pain. However, I am alive to tell this story, so guess I will just stop complaining and learn to use the sources available to keep me going. Good luck everyone. Just wish the doctors would recognize that there MAY be a link to chemo and all of the joint and muscle pain we suffer. Hugs, Judy

cahjah75's picture
Posts: 2623
Joined: Jun 2010

arthritis for 12 years. I take Arthrotec for it. I'm 62yo. I was never told while getting chemo it would be better. However, after chemo I had horrible leg/foot and hand cramping. I had Taxotere/Cytoxan 6 rounds. I finished chemo Dec 7, 2010 and rads Feb 15, 2011. I've been on Arimidex since Jan 7th. I have severe pain in both knees (bone on bone) and have degenerative disc disease in spine. I had torn meniscus repaired in 2008 as well as 3 disc fusion in my cervical spine. I saw a neurosurgeon 3 weeks ago and he said my lumbar is in bad shape. I have moderate scoliosis and may some day need back surgery. I was having pain radiating to both hips and down my left leg all the way to my foot. My rheumatologist gave me 4 nerve blocks 2 weeks ago and it has helped. The cramping in my hands is better as is leg/foot cramps. My challenge now is to relose the weight I gained while getting chemo. 30 lbs is a lot on someone 5' tall!

Posts: 176
Joined: Oct 2010

First of all Jendry, your comments about your oncologist and his evil minions had me rolling on the floor! It always drove me nuts to be told that my symptoms were just 'normal'!

Second, I am kind of relieved to hear that some of you were told your arthritis would get better during the chemo and worse after. I've had back and neck pain off and on over the past 2 years. My assumption was that it's arthritis but I never really knew for sure. I found it got remarkably better when I was on chemo, no problems at all. But when I stopped chemo, the pain was so severe I could hardly stand up. Since the BC diagnosis I worry that everything is cancer related now. So I was convinced I had a tumor on my back and that the chemo shrank it and now it's back! Now I realize, it's probably just the arthritis.

And about the arthritis, anything that lowers estrogen can help along arthritis and/or osteoporosis. Chemo and all the after drugs...tamoxifen, armidex are 'estrogen lowering', 'forcing us into menopause' causing drugs. And that can increase our risk for arthritis.

For me, I find that exercise and trying to reduce weight helps me. I was in severe pain a few weeks ago. I forced myself to the gym and through some strength training regimens and I feel much better...not perfect, but better. We'll see as time goes on.

Posts: 2
Joined: May 2014

Finally answers I have horrible lower back hip bone pain had to have chemo 2 times within 2 years yes just as hair looking good outfit came again. No one ham answer this pain!! I take oxycodone 1-2 times daily power thru the pain n walk 4-5 miles daily but that is it for my day

womdering yo if some of this is from Herceptin still on til it stops working

fiag 2010 IBC met to spine 2012

thanks for reading

be well friends

CypressCynthia's picture
Posts: 4017
Joined: Oct 2009

I am so sorry for what you are going through.  I too have arthritis and bone pain.  Diagnosed 1987 Stage 3 IDC.  Recurrence 2005 (bone/lung).  Recurrence 2013 (liver).  I have also had chemo 2 X (although really spread out).  Currently on herceptin/perjeta until they stop working.

Sometimes the pain isn't bad, but other times I take celebrex and a little hydrocodone (can't really take much in the way of narcotics). 

I can't ever figure out if the pain is from the many therapies, the cancer, age, etc., but I just manage the best I can.

Have you ever tried a pain management specialist?

Big cyber hugs and I hope you feel better!

Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 2014

I also had the same trealament last year. I was diagnosed with Stage 3A breast cancer at age 35. I was very sick the prior year with hives & swelling under armpits & behind my knees. No doctor could figure out why? I was in chronic pain too. I went to many doctors & tried acupuncture & nothing helped. I ended up in hospital several times for swelling, hives & pain. They would put me on steroids & I was on them for over a year! I couldnt eat hardly any foods without having a reaction & I felt my body shutting down but had no idea what to do? After I felt a large lump in my left armpit, I contacted my doctor & had immedie imaging. Mammogram & ultra sound showed lumps in left breast (I couldn't feel) & large swollen lymph node. They did a biopsy the following week & on 3/27/13 told me I had cancer. The next day I was talking to a surgeon about a plan. I went through many tests due to chronic pain. Thank the good Lord above it was only in my breast & armpit! I had a left mastectomy & 14 lymph nodes removed. 15 positive cancerous tumors removed. I started physical therapy 2 weeks post op due to losing my range of motion in my left arm. About 60%!! I went twice a week and I'm still going. I had surgery 4/21/13 & found out I was allergic to nerve pain medication. Gamapentin. I was already taking Vicodin the previous year, so I needed stronger pain meds. I was on Oxycotin, percocets & Tramadorevetments recently was added. I also stated chemo A/C for times & 10 weekly Taxol for a total if 14 chemo treatment! I was suppose to have 12 Taxol but the neurophathy in my hands & feet were becoming severe.


My Onc told me it could be permanent & I stopped treatment early. 6 months if chemo from 5/21/13-10/7/13 the following week I was mapped for radiation and began that in November. I had 35 sessions. I was doing ok until the end & got really burnt! I ended treatments on 12/26/13 and thought that was the day my life would go back to normal!!!!!!!!!! Sad to say I was in bad shape & the fatigue hit me hard. I was down most of Jan/Feb and started coming around in March. My husband took my kids & I too Hawaii to celebrate my survivorship 4/15-4/20 and I have to say that was the BEST I've felt in 3 years!!!! soaking in the heat & sun, floating in the salt water, relaxing & not thinking about cancer with my family all happy was so fabulous & needed! I still couldn't function without my pain meds but I felt so good! When I returned I was energetic & finally feeling a breakthrough from pain. Eveyday I wake up & take pain meds to move. All day & at night. It's 12:43 and I already took my regiment adding in muscle relaxers and still I ache. This month I feel I'm sliding backwards despite my efforts. I go to physical therapy, gentle yoga (as much as I can), I walk 30 mins a day, drink a ton of water, eat organic! I have a garden So I know it's organic! Lol. But I feel bad. All day I ache. My hands & feet hurt. I'm so tied of pain meds & feeling toxic. I try not to google read side effects to drugs because it's so scary. I finally googled "pain after chemo" hens stumbled upon this site. I know I'm only 5 month post treatments but I find it discouraging to start feelig better & now I'm sliding back. I haven't been painfree since 2010! I really want to be pain free & off pall these strong drugs. My feet hurt (right toenail was removed during chemo do to it becoming infected. It was so painful having the foot specialist removed my entire toenail  because of the nerve damage) I'm still in pain from that!!!!!


I'm sorry we all are in pain! I've heard that it take two years to really start feeling better after chemo? I was taking tamoxifen but honestly I feel so bad on that medicine I just can't take it. I fear taking it & I fear NOT taking it. The quality of life after cancer is hard enough for me. I have major nerve damage where my mastectomy was & under my arm always swells & hurts. Tamoxifen caused me to feel extremely sad, headaches, nightmares (when I could actually sleep), weight gain (after 2 years if steroids & pain I've gain 50 unwanted pounds & really want to lose it) painful sex, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, hot flashes, and more. My Onc wanted me to try half in morning & half at night to see if it would help with feeling sick. She also wanted me to anti-nausea pills (Same ones I had during chemo which I hate the thought of taking them again) and also Xanex at night to sleep. I forgot to say I've been on Ativan since they told me I had cancer for anxiety. Panic attacks. So I'm on all these addictive drugs! I hate it! But if I don't take them I feel like I would be in a wheelchair...crippled in pain. I'm not on here feeling sorry for myself or complaining. Just giving the facts. I'm very blessed & I celebrate the little victories. I just have to talk to others who understand so I don't feel alone. So I don't feel crazy. No one in my family understands. No one really knows how I feel. It's hard. I know time heals, but I'm one of those people that try to fix things. I want a solution & it's so frustrating that no one can really help us.


I'm going to try Chinese medicine now that I'm in remission! Praise The Lord! I want to see if acupuncture can help? Healing tea? Alternative medicine. I just can't keep living life drugged on pain meds & still in pain. There has to be a better way!! If I find it, I will def share. i did have a bone scan in Dec 2013 and it was clean. I also had a PET scan prior to treatments so I have a peace of mind it's not all over my body. It's def hard though to move forward from treatments & be a survivor yet feel so bad. They give you great tools & support during your fight! Amazing! I'm so grateful for my amazing surgeon & Onc & radiation & physical therapy. But the healing process lacks knowledge & support both physically & mentally. I'm not a writer but I really want to write a book on the healing process. Even if it's just a mental preparation for what to expect after treatments that NO ONE prepares you for! Everyone just focuses on the last treatment day(including yourself) & no one feels the "normal switch" click on. You realize wait?! I'm only half way done! I did the fight & won! Praise God! But now I have to heal? Isn't that frustrating. No one told me two more years. Pain. Aches. More meds! No one prepared my mind!! I thought I was done! I want my life back! I have kids that need me well & my energy & my mind. I've had TERRIBLE short term memory loss since treatments & my onc said it's partially all the strong drugs & from chemo. Lovely! Anyways enough of my ranting. I'm going to be 37 this summer & I feel like my 75 yr old yoga instructor can run laps around me. I want to be strong, healthy & alive! I want to be painfree!!! Proud of you all & praying for your aches & pains to leave as well :( Fight! Pray! Win! Phil 4:13


my blog: www.fightpraywin.com

I need to update it. My last post was in memory of my dearest grandma....she fought 15 years! She was my heart & inspiration. I just haven't felt like writing since she pasted in Oct. I also lost a friend in Nov...then a college friend in Feb....all to cancer. We are all effected & have heavy hearts. I'm grieving the lost of myself, along with the loss of my family friends.


Time heals...









Posts: 2
Joined: Jun 2014

I am 70.  Have breast cancer Hers 1 positive.  Was not conscience of arthritis before radiation.  Did get peripheral neuropathy after taxol.

Severe cramping, muscle spamism, charlie Horse seems to be helped by magnium.  I use Calm (brand name) sold in health food stores.

It helps the cramping.  Other things that help.  Cottage cheese mixed with fish oil.  Strange, I was having allergic reactions to dairy before

cancer, but now the food allergy seems lighter.  What else as helped?  Wormwood extract with iron.  Only use once a week.  There are articles

about these suggestions.  Google wormwood to find references.  I am light on using it because wormwood contains thudja.  Dr. Budwig came up

with the cottage cheese and fish oil idea.  Cold pressed fish oil by Carlsons.   Hope this helps you.



desertgirl947's picture
Posts: 473
Joined: Oct 2012

I am glad I perused this, as I feel as if I have had an increase in cramps:  foot, leg, and thigh.  Sometimes at PT because of the stretches,  I start to get cramps on the torso side where my arm/shoulder getting the attention are.  Someone at work recommended magnesium to me.  I may give thst a try.

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