Cording - anyone heard of this?

Hello I am new to the forum, I have spent a couple of days reading contributions and feel really encouraged. I had a WLE and node clearance on 4th March, still feeling a little “battered” but things are improving and I start chemo tomorrow. The only thing that feels really strange and quite painful is stretching my arm, it feels really restricted, I am doing my exercises and achieving quite a good stretch but this is really short lived. My Breast Care Nurse tells me I am experiencing cording as a result of surgery, hardened lymph tissue.
Anyone out there experienced this? am I expecting too much too soon? any advice or suggestions welcome and will my arm ever be the same again?


Hi seren

Welcome to the forums, whilst you await replies here’s the link to the BCC publication ‘Your operation and recovery’ which includes information about cording whcih you may find helpful :*/changeTemplate/PublicationDisplay/publicationId/100/

Best wishes

Hi Seren

So sorry you have had to join us but please be reasurred you will get lots of helpful advice and support from a lot of wonderful ladies who know from their own experience of symptoms, treatments and feelings this horrible disease bestows upon us.

Re: cording - I had it pretty badly following x2 lumpectomy’s Oct 09. I followed all the exercises givne so do carry on with them even if it hurts but one I found very effrective that the Physio told me to do was lie on the bed with your poorly arm outstretched to teh side and let the wrist hand off the bed so that it droops. Hold it in this position for a few seconds then straighten it then repeat 5 or 6 times. It will hurt a fair bit initially but gets better the more you do it.

My cording lasted for a number of weeks and I did find that chemo ‘antagonised’ it a bit again initially but with the exercises etc it passed. I also found if I massaged the ‘cord’ itself very gently this helped also.

Good luck with your chemo tomorrow. I had my 5th and final one on the 11th March. Drink loads in the lead up to chemo and certainly for the 1st week after, take any anti sickness drugs offered, rest as much as you can and follow what your body tells you - it is all very doable.

Good luck will be thinking of you and hope that cording sorts itself out soon.

Leigh xx

hi seren

i have had problems with cording on and off since i first had surgery for BC 4 years ago… my consultant says some people seem to be more prone to it. i still get it in my right hand, arm, auxilla and breast from time to time and i also get it but not so bad in the left side since surgery last year… i got mondors disease following surgery which is cording through the breast and was very worrying when i saw it.

i ended up having chemo through both arms and this antagonised the problem even though i only had one chemo in the right arm in june im still having problems despite stretching, massage, physio etc

hope you dont suffer so badly.


seren - I had cording a couple of weeks after my WLE/SNB. I had it from my armpit to my elbow and then from my elbow to my wrist. I found it helped to keep stretching it but also to massage it. It went after a few weeks, I think. Hope yours doesn’t last too long.

Ann x

Just been diagnosed today! tried looking it up on posts here but little joy to discover what it really is.
I’m pretty crippled with the pain through my breast and across my body as well as a throbbing arm and inner pains within my trunk.
Told to take painkillers and attempt harder exercises…

Why is it so b****y difficult to cope with this 6 weeks after mx!
I feel life is getting harder rather than better.

Sorry but I do feel angry and despite the swearing there’s nothing I can do but work through the exercises and it still might take months to improve and apparently it can re-occur.

And they wonder why we get depressed!!!

Welsh girl

Sorry about the rant but I’m so disappointed and it’s saving me sobbing before bedtime!
I’ll be more rational another day. Wx

Hi Welsh girl,

Very sorry you’re having such a tough time. Keep trying - and keep on at the medical people to get the best resolution you possibly can. Its ok to be angry! i had a mild cse of cording in my arm after surgery - nothing as severe as you describe, i just kept stretching and stretching. After the 6 week stage i noticed a difference.

Hang on in there.


Hi Welshgirl

Sorry to hear you’re suffering with the cording, here’s an extract from the area of the web that talks about cording. The nurses on the helpline will be happy to talk to you about this if you wish.

"Cording - You may develop pain that feels like a tight cord running from your armpit, down your upper arm through to the back of your hand.

Cording is thought to be due to hardened lymph vessels and can appear six to eight weeks following surgery or even months afterwards. Cording usually gets better and the symptoms go away, though you may need physiotherapy to stretch the cords."

Kind regards,
Jo, Facilitator

Hi Welsh girl

My op was last July & I still have a lot of discomfort. Each chemo seemed to destroy the healing that had happened & set me back, & after the final dose it just doesn’t seem to want to get better. Physio I saw during rads, & onc last week both said it’s cording. But I’m carrying on with the exercises & hoping for the best, & I would say it’s discomfort now rather than pain. I’ve also started at a swim therapy group which I hope will help.
I’m not telling you this to depress you, just to say give yourself time, it’s not been that long since your surgery, you need time to heal.

Thanks Divvy1,
Interested to hear your story and obviously disappointed for you to be still suffering at this stage too. I’m 3 operations down the line after dx in August 2009!

Exercises have been so difficult after mx but with heavy duty painkillers it is somewhat easier to manage now.
However they are now unsure whether it is cording or something called Mondor’s disease???
Have posted up an enquiry so hope to find out more here!

Also been diagnosed with tendonitis in my upper arm which is causing me to have no strength at all so have felt very disabled with it all recently and it is painful to type so, sorry for not getting back to you before…

The list of extra problems after surgery is just so depressing isn’t it? I hope you are enjoying your swim therapy group. Sounds great!
Really pleased for you.

Yup! I’ve had cording and found the only way to relieve it after a year is exercise/stretching every day and using Aqueous cream. S

welshgirl as i said in my previous post i also had mondors disease… which also cording but through the boob area rather than down the arm… my prof said he finds that some women just seem to be more susceptible to cording (and mondors) than others.

try ibuprofen gel the strong one 2% i think… takes about half an hour to have an effect but definitely eases things.

i hope it starts to resolve for you soon.


PS i also replied to your mondors thread

You’re a star Lulu!
Great to read you’re in a good place at the moment.
Good luck with your new post. I’m sure all your personal experiences will help support so many families. First hand knowledge really means so much to us all when we’re frightened or learning about something new.

Thanks again for all your info. You’ve helped me deal with this so much better now I know what it is and how to act.

Leigh, thanks for your advice about the exercise with the ‘limp wrist’. I will definitely be trying that one to help improve strength and stretchability.

Welsh girl xx

Thanks also to the BCC support from Lucy and Jo. You’ve all been so instant with your help. After weeks of not knowing what was happening to me and not really feelng heard (and feeling a bit sorry for myself at times!) I feel a lot calmer now. None of you fobbed me off as did GP and BCN. I love you all!

My experience. About two weeks after surgery (Mx + nodes) the post-op exercises got much harder because my arm movement was being restricted by “strings” along my upper inner arm and across the elbow. You could see them. Up till then i had thought i was doing so well, the trouble developed soon after the drains came out. BCN just said keep up the painkillers and keep up the exercises. I felt so discouraged.

Then I found a really useful book in the local library, Recovering from Breast Surgery by Diana Stumm, ISNB 0-89793-180-7 she is an american physiotherapist. She writes (p40):

…Sometimes one or more of these lymph vessels will actually break while you are stretching your arm. No harm is done. As a matter of fact it is usually a relief. You will feel a sudden ‘ping’ sensation in your arm, and then it will probably feel looser. It’s like breaking an adhesion (a band of scar tissue) Just go on with your exercises - they will probably be easier to do.

Now why do i quote that in full? Because that very evening, while i was lying flat on my back trying to get my arms above my head, the worst restrictive cord did indeed go PING! and it really was Instant Relief!! Immediately able to get arms almost to the floor. So worth waiting for and pushing through with the stretching exercise to get there. I’m annoyed that my BCN hadn’t either appreciated my difficulty or known how to solve it, but there you go. That’s why we have libraries and this forum. Hope it helps you.

I had cording which although painful, felt a very ‘cringy’ type of pain too. But around about 5 weeks post op, it suddenly went (although didn’t feel anything go ‘pop’), and had full range of movement. Now I have a cording like feeling in the other arm due to epirubin irritating my veins, which is not particularly painful, but very cringy.

I think one of the worst aspects of side effects of anything is the not knowing how long they will last or if they will every completely go away.

Well it’s 12 weeks since my mx and the cording is still fairly tight through my chest area but obviously with the harder exercises I am able to stretch further but not quite above my head yet!!!

Have got a physio who pummels me into the ground as she believes she’s in a boxing ring with Mike Tyson! She says the massage is good for all of my dead chest area but I’m not so sure…
When I got to the door last week I was reaching for the heavy duty painkillers just to stop the feelings of nausea! I felt so weakened by her ‘attack’ on me that it took three different stops at cafes, benches etc just to walk home across town!!!

I’m not sure she like me!

Will persevere with the exercises but this cording is difficult to bear at times. Never thought I’d feel so restricted so long after mx.
Hope all my fellow sufferers are making some progress too.

Best wishes

Hi Welsh Girl,

I still have cording in my right arm after radical mx and node clearance mid Feb, have been told it will resolve itself eventually. I can see it along the arm, too! Hopefully, I will get that “ping” and it will be gone!! xxxTina

Three years on I still suffer from cording periodically. Stretching massage and painkillers help. I think it is one of these things that BC brings (delightful)

Carolyn x

It’s only in the last week that I’ve felt some improvement. No popping or pinging that I’ve noticed, but more discomfort than actual pain now. Still bites me occasionally, but think I might be getting there-fingers crossed.

It is a relief to read of so many others - I had my mastectomy 6 months ago and am still having trouble with what I call Twang Arm. Those highly strung strings which I know now is cording! I have exercised and also swum 5 days a week, which really helped. However, each chemo brought me back down again and now that radiation has started, Twang Arm has really started to stiffen. I feel as if I will have this forever. I am not allowed to swim now on Radiation and that is also frustrating as I know it helped.

Sorry this has been a rant rather than having anything constructive to say, but I find it so frustrating and uncomfortable.