Help to alleviate tightness under arm?


Question from Lisa: I had a mastectomy in March of last year. I had 37 lymph nodes taken out, followed by chemo, and then radiation. I am still experiencing tightness and pain under my arm. I do stretching exercises every day, and by evening it feels swollen under my arm and extremely tight. What can I do to help alleviate the tightness?
Answers - Michelle Rhiner There may be some edema that's contributing to this tightness that can be relieved by elevating the arm. Again, the use of compression sleeves might be in order.
Neal Slatkin Although you mention strengthening exercise, you don't mention range-of-motion exercises. It would be important to know whether you have full range of motion of the shoulder on that side, particularly since you had such extensive surgery on that side.

It's just as important to maintain range-of-motion, and perhaps more than to have muscle strengthening. Your pain could be arising on a nerve basis, muscle basis, or the basis of scarring of the skin—the underlying tissues of the skin. For the latter problem, range-of-motion exercises are often highly useful.

Occasionally, if there's a significant muscle component to the problem, injections with either local anesthetics or even agents such as Botox can be useful in relieving discomfort and in enhancing range-of-motion. The nerve pain medications we've already mentioned can also help.

On Wednesday, January 21, 2004, our Ask-the-Expert Online Conference was called Pain Management: Getting the Relief YOU Need. Neal Slatkin, M.D., Michelle Rhiner, N.P. and moderator Jennifer Griggs, M.D., M.P.H. answered your questions about the best ways to deal with the physical pain and discomforts associated with breast cancer and breast cancer treatment.

The materials presented in these conferences do not necessarily reflect the views of Breastcancer.org. A qualified healthcare professional should be consulted before using any therapeutic product or regimen discussed. All readers should verify all information and data before employing any therapies described here.

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