+ Reply
Log in or Register to participate in these discussions
Range of motion post mastectomy + axillary dissection
20 Posts

I am 3 weeks post surgery (mastectomy + axillary dissection), and i am working on physio exercises at home to get my range of motion back. I do see improvement in the shoulder/arm range but the stretching sensation/pain is still very much present.

I had rotator cuff injury prior to the surgery which I was working on with physio. It was better but I still had a bit of pain before the surgery.

I was wondering if/when the stretching sensation will subside if i keep at physio?

Would you recommend visiting physio? RMT?

Thanks in advance.
12 Replies
Runner Girl
3008 Posts

I'm going to tag @ashcon to address your query. I know she has some experience with this.

Keep up the good work with the exercises, will really help you maintain range of motion after such an invasive surgery.

2186 Posts

Hi @Boggle

(.. Thanks for the tag @Runner Girl)

Good for you for doing physio post surgery, and sorry to hear you were starting off with a pre-injury.

I am 4.5 years out from my double mastectomy and ALND (right side) and though I was diligent in my post surgery exercises and go to the gym regularly, I still feel like there is pulling and tightness. And I developed significant cording, which is still an issue.

I didn't do any physio (wish I did!) so maybe you'll come out better than I did!

30 Posts

@Boggle I totally understand your situation. I had a DMX with axillary node removal in Nov 2021. I was faithful in doing exercises in the breast cancer pamphlet and also found a couple of great breast cancer physios on Youtube to reinspire my commitment to daily stretches. They really do help. In addition I see a RMT who specializes in lymphedema pre surgery and regularly after to work on adhesions and shoulder tightness as well as keep an eye on any concerns over lymphedema. Expensive but well worth it. I have met with a physio but later in my recovery but do find the massage the most helpful! When I really got into trouble with underarm pain and tightness was a couple of months after completion of 25 radiation treatments. Even with 45 mins of faithfully doing stretching exercises from the physio my underarm area is very very tight. I encourage you to finda good breast cancer RMT ( my oncologist recommended the one and only clinic in my twon or i would have been lost). Watch out for lymphedema with axillary node removal. I wear a compression sleeve as a preventative measure as recommended by my surgeon 10-12 hrs every day. Can be hot and uncomfortable but better than the alternative!

264 Posts

Hello @Boggle I had two lumpectomies and finally a mastectomy on my left side in 2019. I had created a cording after the last surgery and was very stiff and very little range of motion. Someone on this site suggested, that everytime you go thru a doorway, try to reach for the top. I started doing that each time I went thru the opening. It was amazing how over time I got my range back. It is hard to believe how many times a day you go thru a doorway. At the same time I continued with the exercises I was given. It gets better, hang in there.

31 Posts

@boggle. Hi! I started at home exercises the next day after surgery. I did them from the Canadian Cancer Society website and i think they truly helped. I was off for 2 months and kept doing them for a bit even after i went back to work. Mine lasted for quite a while afterwards. My surgery was over a year ago and i can still feel it a bit if i stretch my arm back.

Im sure everyone would be different, but it took me probably 4 months after to get back as close to normal.

Im sure your physio is a huge help!

48 Posts

@Boggle I am 7 weeks 3 days post single mastectomy and axillary dissection. I still have nerve pain and reduced motion on that side. About a week or 10 days ago I noticed some improvement for movement, being able to raise my arm higher, etc, but it seems to be taking longer than I would have expected. I specifically asked my surgeon if I should be prescribed physio and she said no…said the exercises the hospital provided on a leaflet would be enough (!). I have numb areas under arm and under the scar, and the motion restriction, but I have found the pain is the worst part. All the best to you, hoping both our recoveries go well!

20 Posts

@fabhabfan thanks for your reply. I am also doing the exercises from the bc cancer website. It's helpfu to know how it was for you. I guess I just have to be patient, it's only been 3 weeks.

20 Posts

@happyhiker1 thanks! I can do most of the motions but it still feels real tight, especially when I first start to stretch so I was worried ill always have the tight/pain sensation. Thanks for your reply!

25 Posts

@Boggle I am one year post mastectomy and axillary dissection (12 nodes), long story short, started physio three weeks after surgery which helped to regain some range of motion, but after about 6 months the shoulder/chest/ribs were still very tight and limited mobility - and I did do the exercises and stretches daily. What the first physio missed was that I developed a frozen shoulder (not uncommon for women who have had breast surgery, particularly mastectomy and AD). After doing some research, I found out that there are physios who specialize in breast cancer rehab (there are 3 located on Vancouver Island, relatively close to my location) and they are the professionals who have helped me the most with scar adhesion, cording, recovery of ROM, exercise programming, etc. It's really worthwhile finding out if you have professionals who are specifically trained (there is no oncology training program for physios in Canada, the therapists I went to received their additional oncology training in the USA and New Zealand. There is also a physiotherapist in Ottawa who is trained in cancer rehab and also has online educational videos. Would happily send a private message to you if you want names.

4 Posts

Hope you are doing well now after your surgery. With targeted treatments and agreements, physiotherapy helps recover from rotator cuff injury. Most times, it seems successful. My advice is to consult a therapist and practice with his help because more stretching and strengthening exercises may worsen the situation.

20 Posts

@Island8 thanks for your reply. I am now 4 weeks post. Tomorrow I am going back to the physio I saw before surgery re: rotator cuff to see what the assessment is. I feel like I have pretty good range of motion but not withou some tightness under the arm and some pain in deltoid (rotator cuff?). Based on the feedback, I think I would have this tightness for a while, not going away anytime soon.

I think I need to make sure the exercises in the booklet is OK to do with rotator cuff injury…

20 Posts

@Millenn hi Millen! I totally agree. I followed the exercises laid out in the booklet but I find the deltoids are hurting more lately. I decided to go back and see my physio who was treating my rotator cuff before the surgery. Hopefully he can make a difference. If not I think I'll look for a physio that's specialized with breast surgery.

+ Reply