New - post surgery arm pain


I’m new to this but having read notes on the forum thought I’ll join in.

I was diagnosed a couple of days after my 50th birthday and had the nastie removed and lymph node sampling done on 13th Sept. At my follow up appointment was told there was evidence in the nodes so I’m back in on Monday to have a level III axillary clearance. I’ve been suffering a lot from pain down my arm and my bra seems to rub right across the axilla incision. I’ve spent the last few weeks wearing my husband’s shirts and still find clothing uncomfortable. It’s as if my skin is hypersensitive. Any ideas or is this to be expected and if so how long does it tend to last?

My consultant gave a hint that I might be offered chemo but he wasn’t going to commit yet. Like most I want everything possible thrown at this but I’m not clear if chemo follows the clearance or not. Any thought?


Bumping this up. I can certainly relate to this problem with pain and bras, but its a long story and I’ve had problems with the radiotherapy on top of it. It’s pretty miserable isn’t it. Just a thought - what did your consultant say about this pain, when discussing the axillary clearance with you?


Thanks K. My consultant seemed to put it down to nerve damage from the first op but he also indicated that my op on monday may result in total numbing. I never thought I’d be having more pain from my arm than the actual op sites.


Hi Reeb - My story is similar to yours as I too had a 2nd op to clear the nodes. Dx Aug 2009 .My breast care nurse explained that the nerve damage that occurs during the operations cause something she called Altered sensation. This is what causes the discomfort as clothes etc rub against it. I had to wear looser clothing for a while until I got used to it and bought many bras trying to get something comfortable. When the surgeon did the 2nd op he put the stitches inside and used "glue"on the outside so I had no dresssing and this did make it more comfortable. Still have discomfort a year later but get used to it. Sometimes after the surgery you can get something called cording in the arm - try googling it and ask your BC nurse for help. Hope this might help. Marli

Hi Reeb

BCC have written some information about possible side effects you may experience following surgery which you can read here:

Please feel free to call our helpline to talk things through too on 0808 800 6000, the line is open weekdays 9-5 and Sat 9-2.

Take care

Thanks so much for your ideas and suggestions. Just home following the second op and so far things feel ok though I understand it will be a couple of days before things settle down and then I’ll know about any further nerve trouble. It was disconcerting to wake up in recovery and have pain in my hand but it’s that old waiting game. Thanks again.


HI there
I had lumpectomy and node clearance at the same time as second biopsy confirmed it was in nodes - so in a way I was lucky only to have one op. BUT I can sympathise with the arm pain & sensation thing. It feels very numb but also as if the skin has been burned & is very sore when clothes rub against it. This goes down the inner arm area (bingo wing in my case!!)as well as in the arm pit itself. I had the op last tuesday so am a week on & it has got a bit better. at first I also had shooting like electric shock sensations but these have subsided.
I have found the pain killers great but they don’t really do anything for the changed sensations. I think we just have to wait & see how long it lasts but I am getting more movement back day by day so think all is well. hearing others expereinces on here did help as although you can call the BCN and I also spoke to my district nurse about it as she was experienced & she explained about nerve damage which I am sure they mentioned before the op but then what choice do you have?!?>!?!?
it really does help to hear from others going thtough the same thing.
I feel a baby moaning about the little things when there’s so much more to worry about but on a day to day basis those are the things that can get to you sometimes.

Hope your arm improves soon.

Im 3weeks past my op had 15 nodes reomoved 2 of which had cancer they say it was grade 2 im still getting electric shocks down my arms i have also got strings which is very painful it is improving a little but not as quick as i had hoped i just keep doin excercises and massaging top of my arm dont know what else i can do hoping things can only get better take care

Hi all
I had all of the above, oversensitive skin on inside of arm, cording down arm a few weeks later. It does settle down, in my case i had physio for that tight stringiness as I couldn’t straighten my arm. All of this lasted longer than I epected, and have only just got rid of the worst of the cording, 3 months after axial clearance. I have also got the strength back in that arm, which at one point I didn’t think was going to happen. I would say that the sensitive skin lasts just a few weeks but be prepared for permanent numbness in the armpit which is common. It’s not too bad, just feels like novocaine that you get at the dentist, I can pinch it and feel the movement but not any pain, very strange.

Elaine, just keep massaging and moving your arm as much as you can.

I would say if it is really bad, ask your bc nurse for help, but be prepared for it to take a while.


Thanks rusty not been much response to my strings (cords)

For interest,I had a mastectomy months ago. I’ve a single cord running under my armpit, several running down my forearm, below my elbow which are sore to touch, plus it is all a bit swollen. I have some anti-inflammatory cream to put on them plus painkillers plus physio, plus I have exercised very regularly. They are still there!! For what its worth I’ve been told they are common, and will eventually go, but all I can say - when?? I wouldn’t say they have improved in any way over the months. I have very good movement, and I can get my arm well up, but the cords themselves are still there. I also have nerve type pain, but I think that’s a different issue, and that has improved on Gabapentin (which has helped the hot flushes). K x

I had my op three weeks ago this Friday and had bilateral mx with immediate recon plus axillary clearance on my left and can totally sympathise with the arm pain-it stopped me from sleeping last night!!! What I have found best is to exercise when it’s at it’s worst-taking painkillers to make the exercise bearable and help you stretch it a bit further than you would without! In respect of the sensitive skin - it’s horrid isn’t it and really does make things feel like they are irritating the skin even if they actually aren’t! What I have found works is something I read about on the net and is desensitising the area by using my left hand on my right (healthy) arm then right hand on my left (bad) arm and rubbing the area. I have found with a bit of repetition they start feeling the same and although it comes back on my bad arm it certainly provides some relief!

Hope that might help you too!

Emma x

Hi Reeb
i found bras hurt or rubbed on my underarm scar so for a few weeks changed to wearing vest tops with the “secret support”, got mine from m&s. They have a support which goes under the bust so is below scar lines but gives support like a bra. The top lines are loose, more like a vest than a bra so are far more manageable. I also wore them in bed at night,
hope this helps

ive got a sports bra which is comfy, i cant stand anythink else yet. 2.5 weeks after lumpectomy.

the pain in my arm doesnt seem to be any better, its numb to the elbow, and the armpit is worse. also when i do the warm up excersise i get shooting pains, and every now again it feels liek someone is dropping water on my arm. its worse at night when i try sleeping. i cant beileve this hurts more than my boob!!

Hi, I had my lumpectomy and 9 nodes removed on the 19th August. My arm/arm pit caused me much more pain and discomfort than my breast. I had difficulty wearing anything next to the area for the first couple of weeks, but it did improve. I bought a good sports bra from Bravissimo (as I’m large busted) and by the end of the 3rd week was able to keep it on most of the day. By 6 weeks my movement had returned completely and I was even able to tolerate an under wire bra!! There is still numbness under the arm pit and down the bat wings! But I only really notice it in the shower. It does still wake me up if I roll onto that side at night, but on the whole it’s recovered quite well. I’m afraid time is the key thing here and keep doing the excercises.
Don’t know if anyone has mentioned moisturising your arm a couple of times a day. I was told this several times in hospital. Hang on in there! xx

Hi all. I really appreciate your comments and it’s clear this seems to be standard effect. Since my surgery on Monday my arm has felt rather numb but I’ve got loads of swelling from the lymph node clearance which my nurse is going to drain on Monday - I’ve a feeling the swelling may be pressing on the nerve and keeping the sensation away causing that numb feeling but with the fluid gone that old searing pain will return anew! Take care everyone.


May be of help, I was told by my physio that when nerves start to come back after somethinkg like node clearance, that you are best to try lots of different sensations on the area to prevent it become too sensitive. She said try moisturisers, towels wet and dry, scrunchy scrubs, basically anything that give a different feel.

Hi All
I was getting nerve pain around where lymph nodes had been removed, it was waking me up most nights, so my GP prescribed Amitriptyline for it, which has worked a treat. Amitriptyline was originally designed as an anti-depressant, but you take it in much smaller doses to dull nerve pain and since it has a mild sedative effect, also helps sleep. I’m doing masses of exercise on my arm, shoulder and breast area, and walking miles every day in the hope that improved circulation will help the healing process - it certainly helps me get to sleep!
Sarah x

I had my wound drained yesterday and it’s already filled up again so it’s going to be drained again. The exercises are a bit more tricky as it’s difficult to stretch due to the swelling but there is no doubt they are important. Just have to keep going.