Arm trouble

Kathy1108 Member Posts: 62
edited March 2014 in Breast Cancer #1
I have a question about my arm that I hope someone can answer. I am still having trouble raising my arm up fully since I had a mastectomy and some of my lymph nodes taken out back in May of 2003. I exercise 5 days a week. It is a lot better now. But I was wondering if this is as good as it is going to get?


  • tlmac
    tlmac Member Posts: 272 Member
    Kathy, I had a modified radical (left breast) with 13 nodes removed on February 6, 2003, regaining full range of motion with my arm by the time chemo finished the end of May though arm strength at that point was still an issue. We all heal differently and I've read on the board about surgical pain and other complications that I never experienced either. The exercises I confined my arm to were the 5 in a booklet given to me by the Reach to Recovery volunteer in a little gift bag. They were specific to mastectomy surgery with. Perhaps it's less about how much you exercise and more about the type of exercise you are doing. If not, ask your doctor for referral to a qualified physical therapist. They do wonderful range of motion and strengthing. Don't settle for partial use if complete recovery is possible. Good luck.
  • billandpatty
    billandpatty Member Posts: 86
    Hi Kathy
    I had a lumpectomy and lymphnode dissection (30) in April 2000 and then chemo and radiation. It took awhile for me to raise my arm and for a long time, even when I could, it wasn't pain free. My shoulder ached alot for a few years. I exercise at Curves and walk 3 miles 5 days a week. Last year I took a stress management class that worked on breathing and "being in the moment". Besides helping to help me relieve stress, my shoulder felt a lot better (a surprise result!). Then, a few months later, we purchased a new bed -- the "sleep number" one with the pillow top -- it helped my shoulder even more. I've been wanting to take a yoga class to help me keep the pain under control, but haven't done that yet.

    I know when I had the surgery and was having trouble with my arm, I would ask other survivors about it and I got different answers. My question was when would my arm "feel like it belonged to me again". Some said they didn't have any problems and others said they were always bothered. I'm in the "always bothered" category. Mine isn't as painful as it once was, but it doesn't feel "right" or like my other arm, I always know it's there.

    I hope this doesn't depress you. I have decided that it's something I have to learn to cope with and live with. Last year I had to have surgery for melanoma on the same side and the surgeon went back under my arm for a couple of lymph nodes (didn't know I had anymore!), which brought back more pain and aching. I am about 10 months out from that surgery and I don't think my arm and shoulder are where they were before that surgery. I have more healing and work to do on it to get it back to where I was before that surgery.

    Having cancer isn't only dealing with the cancer, it's dealing with all the after-effects of the treatments -- as I'm sure you know too well. The side effects from the treatments aren't always short term, some things go away, but others linger on.

    Sometimes I'm tired of it, but then I look around and enjoy the sun shining, or a phone call from one of my children or a special look from my husband -- and realize that all this "stuff" is worth it.

    Take care.

  • jazzlady
    jazzlady Member Posts: 3
    Dear Kathy,

    Although my surgery was different(prophylactic double mastectomies with reconstruction=implants placed within flaps made of my cut and resewn pectoralis muscles), I have had arm/shoulder troubles ever since (over 20 yrs). Since everyone is different I cannot tell you if yours will get a whole lot better, but I can tell you that the sooner you do physical therapy the more mobility you will recover (and the milder the pain will become). I have been told many times that my drs were totallly WRONG -- they told me not to do physical therapy but instead not to move my problem arm whenever it hurt (and told me to move my arms as little as possible after my surgery). It is not necessary that you hire a physical therapist. There are many ways to do it yourself. If you have a Y or city-run indooor pool, I highly recommend that you do water therapy -- it's amazing how much more you can move your arm in the water without pain. If you want info on the various exercises and stretches I have used, please email to let me know and I will send you the names of books and direct you to websites of help. I also want you to know that it is essential that you stretch out the problem muscles every day (I do it at night B4 bed so I sleep more restfully -- especially if my arm/shoulder have been hurting).

    Good luck with your arm!


    KLLONG Member Posts: 8
    I had mastectomy with node removal also. My range of motion was pretty good but I didn't have full range of motion. My surgery was October 2003. Approximately one month ago I developed lymphedema in my arm. After doing the self massage and exercise program my physical therapist gave me, I am now getting more range of motion. It may be worthwhile if you can get your doctor to prescribe physical therapy for you.

    Good Luck!
  • jhope
    jhope Member Posts: 58
    HI Kathy, OKAY GIRLS!!!! I am a survivor of 3 months now, 12 txs chemo, radiation, 2 lumpectomys, and all nodes out! LIsten uP, I almost killed myself working 2 jobs during chemo and radiation for a week to "cover" at the hospital for my co-worker ===who is also an occupational therapist to get Lymphodema Certified!! You need to get professional help from an occupational therapist (a few physical also) that are lymphodema certified, there is NOT a substitute. I am so passioniate about this because after a period of time some scar tissue can not be broken up and I have watched Janet treat very sad situations that could have been avoided if doctors where more aware to refer us.

    There are very SPECIFIC excercises to do for our situation and they will tell you what to watch for, if everyone can not find or afford a specialist I will talk to Janet and see if there is a site or something, God bless, Julia