Armpit discomfort after surgery

Armpit discomfort after surgery

Armpit discomfort after surgery Having had a part radical mastectomy ( lymph nodes removed)11 weeks ago and on my third cycle of of AC chemo I am finding that the armpit and upper (underneath) part of the right arm far more troublesome that the actual chest wound which has healed well.

Most of the time it feels as if there is massive swelling in and around the area but on inspection there is nothing to be seen. The whole situation is very wearing and creates problems sleeping.

Has anyone got some advice on how to improve this situation and some timelines on how long it will take before this improves.

Thank you - looking forward to hearing from you.


I had a mastectomy 3 months ago and axillary node clearance about 8 weeks ago.

Ive had 2 lots of chemo so far. Like you I’ve had more discomfort under the arm than anywhere else but I think this is completely normal, the surgeon said that I would find this.

I know what you mean about feeling like there is a swelling under the arm and I think for me its because its numb under there, so its a bit like when your lip feels really big after youve had needles for a filling! It certainly doesnt look swollen.

I still find it difficult to sleep on the side where Ive have surgery, I just end up with aches and pains in the muscles and under the arm when I do. Like you, I find it wearing as Ive never slept well anyway!

I think it is starting to get a little better though but every time I think this it seems to come back with a vengeance!

Ive also been fitted for a really good mastectomy bra recently and Ive noticed the difference already, less discomfort and I wonder if the better support is helping.

By the way, I havent got 100% full movement back yet, do you?

Hope this helps a little!


Underarm discomfort Thanks Pauline,

It’s good to know that I’m not going mad as I couldn’t find anything on this subject anywhere apart from a few vague notes about tingling etc
but believe me this discomfort is more than tingling !!

My movement is getting better but certainly not 100% yet but I do think that the discomfort of the underarm is not helping to get full mobility that I would have expected by now.

Since posting my request for info this morning I have contacted and made an appointment for Monday 2nd July with a private clinic in the hope that their physios etc will be able to help me.

Watch this space I will let you know how I get on.

Take care.


Hallo everyone,

I’m a newbie so just trying to get to grips with this site so forgive me if it all goes pear shaped!

I had a radical modified mastectomy and full node clearance on 11th June and have been trying to do my exercises as best I can. I seem to be going backwards though, I’ve got a really tight cord thing under my armpit and the inside of my bicep feels really sore as well. My breast nurse just nods when I mention it to her. Is it a temporary thing? I really fell like it’s getting tighter, the physio at the hospital said the aim is to get your arm above your head within a week! ho ho not much chance of that here, does that mean that I haven’t done enough exercise?

Also I’ve still got fluid at my wound sites as well, this has been drained once and they don’t seem concerned about it but I would welcome other peoples experience of that as well, how long did it take for the fluid to be absorbed?

Phew! sorry for all the questions, it’s a real rollercoaster isn’t it? I start chemo next Tuesday, I feel like I’ve barely had time to draw breath but all in all I’m feeling Ok and hopeful for the future.

All my best wishes to you all.


Hello, I am new to this too but I had a lumpectomy in Feb this year with lymph node clearance. My arm was very stiff and I could not stretch it until mid June. It also felt as if I had been sandpapered and it was red raw but it didn’t look any different. I was advised to do a gentle exercise to stretch the ligaments. Stand facing a wall with toes touching the wall raise both arms so that your hands are shoulder height and gently using your fingers “walk” up the wall until you can go as far as is comfortable then stop and hold for a few moments and then release. Do this a couple of times a day. You will gradually be able to go further. If you can get someone to mark with a pencil where you reached it gives you something to aim at. Go carefully with exercise tho as I got phlebitis in my arm when I stretched it trying to hold my dog when it was being attacked by another dog. My arm has gradually got better although it is still numb and I still find it difficult to sleep on that side (I use an extra pillow down my left side to give support). I hope this helps.

Hi veggiebean,

I can relate to what you’ve experienced… I had a lumpectomy and removal of 18 nodes, on 9th May. However, I had big problems with fluid build up and had a couple of incidents of the self-draining, i.e. bursting open of their own accord… luckily I was at home both times!! Alarming all the same. Anyway, my breast care nurse put a couple of small bags on them to drain into (evidently stoma bags), which I was able to empty myself. She also had to aspirate the wounds a couple of times. I think the last one came off about 4 weeks after surgery. It can take time, but the wounds are fine now, so don’t worry too much… time will heal.

Re the cording in the armpit… I too have/had that. Persevere with the exercises, just pushing yourself a little further each time. The pain in the upper arm will eventually go… I’m several weeks post-surgery and have no real discomfort or pain any more, 'though the tight cords are still there. I can’t bear to feel them myself… I know some on the forum have mentioned massaging them, but it turns my stomach!! Thinking of asking about further physio, to see if that can help.

This site does give you lots of good tips and make you realise that others are going through just the same. Keep smilling!
All the best,


Hi Linnet
I had my mastectomy in January,only got my arm over my head in May. I had to go to private physio (hospital didn’t off any!)the physio gave me some muscle putty to squeeze which really strengthen my upper arm muscle, also a stick to push on with the exercises, this really helped. I also sleep with a pillow under my arm, and hug a cushion when sitting, I find this really helps with the under arm pain.Good luck and hang in there, it does get easier, honest. Love Valann

Thanks a million everyone,

It helps me so much to know I’m not alone here. Cheers for the exercise tip Joannagirl, I did know that one but I was doing it wrong! talk about making life more difficult. I really think that everyone should be offered a follow up physio session maybe 3-5 weeks post op just to make sure that you’re making satisfactory progress. But hey that’s in a perfect world.

AliS I’m the same as you, I really don’t like the cord thing and I hate the way my armpit is all numb and weird but I suppose you’ve got to look at what you’ve achieved and how far you’ve come? When I get a bit down I think of how I was a few hours post op, scared to move, scared of my drains, scared of looking at the wound. But now I can do loads!

Anyway onwards and upwards! chemo starts tomorrow. As my beautiful wee girl of 27 months says “Help Mummy get better” Yes indeed.

Take care all and big thanks again.

Hello all, this thread is pinpoints all the worries I’ve had over the past few weeks. I had a wide local exicision and removal of 13 nodes on 8 June and like others on here I seem to be going backwards - post-op I could do the exercises with no trouble but they are getting harder and harder to do. It’s so frustrating. I’ve got cording too and pain across my chest wall when I do the exercises.

There are some good tips here, thanks everyone. I have also found using moisturiser (aqueous cream) on my arm helps me to massgae it a bit without thinking about the cords and apparently this will help keep my skin supple when I have radiotherapy.

My wound burst open at home, and got infected as well which has delayed my chemo. Sometimes it feels at the hospital that this is so routine for them they don’t really understand how worrying a ‘small’ thing like that can be. I am starting to learn to push a bit more for the treatment I want, but I feel that if they had taken better care of my wound in the early days it might not have happened. Hey ho. At least I’ve learned something useful!

Hi Flyright,

I’m sorry to learn that you’re having problems following your surgery with excercises and cording. BCC publish a factsheet on exercises following surgery which you may find helpful. The link is as follows: I hope this is of help to you.

Kind regards
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