Shoulder stiffness after a mastectomy



Just wondering if anyone has had similar issues with the following and would be interested to know what helped.


I had a lumpectomy in June and afterwards had cording but with exercises this got resolved. 


I then had a mastectomy in August and since then have had a really stiff shoulder. I can’t put my arm behind my back, cannot stretch my arm. I’ve kept up with the exercises but some I just cannot do at all.


I saw a physio on a private basis for 4 weeks but it didn’t really make much difference. I then saw the physio at the hospital and they found I have some cording and have a frozen shoulder (They say it’s a type of frozen shoulder but fortunately I don’t have the chronic pain just real lack of mobility). Nhs advised on stopping some of the exercises I was told to do by the private physio. I am due to see nhs physio again in 4 weeks.


I did a lot of sport before the operations but with my shoulder at present there’s quite a lot of them I won’t be able to do.


Any advice would be greatly appreciated 





Hi Cheffy, I am in a v similar situation to you with my shoulder but my op was last year. I had stiffness, did the exercises that the hospital advised and was ok-ish. My bc nurse showed me how to massage which really helped with the cording. Then radiotherapy set things back so I started NHS physiotherapy and now my shoulder is even worse, sounds v similar to yours. I had an xray which showed the bones aren’t displaced by a muscle tear, but the physio is arranging for me to see a shoulder specialist and have an ultrasound to look at the muscles. They’re also going to look at having a steroid injection or nerve block. In the meantime my GP has given me strong painkillers as advised by the physio because they say the important thing is not to stop moving the shoulder entirely as that would make the muscles even weaker and stiffer. My bc nurse has also arranged for me to return to my surgeon/onc team to assess me soon. In the meantime I have to sleep with lots of pillows to stabilise my silly shoulder at night and I’ve cut my hair shorter cos I can’t reach it well! I’ve heard shoulder problems are really quite common and the sooner you get help the better they are to improve - as it’s such early days since your op in August I would think you have a really good chance of making progress. For example, in terms of just the body healing, you’d expect to keep on making improvements for 6-12 months after the op. I’d be interested to know what helps you with the pain. The painkillers I’m on don’t make much of a difference. Our bodies have been through a lot so I guess we just have to keep on making little steps and getting better and ask for the help we need. If you haven’t already done so, I’d recommend you see your bc nurse and GP again. All the best x

Hi Cheffy


You do not mention the BCC exercises. I was given a DVD and following that got my shoulder/arm back to normal after mastectomy. It took a few months. I mention this because a few years later I was ‘on the verge’ of a frozen shoulder on the other side and the thing that helped me was starting the BCC shoulder/arm exercise program again. Best wishes.

Hi Cheffy, I go swimming do aqua and TaiChi. I have lymphodaema as well as a stiff shoulder and my nurse is very happy that I swim. I found the exercises utterly utterly
boring ? Heat soothes my shoulder and I have a heat pad which works wonders. Good luck ?

Hi Cheffy, how you doing? I said I’d get back to you about what my Drs advised about frozen shoulder. My oncology team have reassured me it’s not spread, so very relieved about that. Physio has arranged for something called hydrodilation plus steroid injection on 18th, the idea is to “blow up”!! the area to stretch the muscles. The thought of anything coming anywhere near my shoulder gives me the frights let alone a great big needle but they say there’s a 70% success rate. How are you now? All the best x