Weak arm a year after mastectomy

I had a mastectomy over a year ago, in Dec 07. Once I had recovered from surgery, and done my post-op exercises, all seemed well. However, for the past 2/3 months, I’ve noticed the arm on the op side seems to be getting weaker and weaker. For example, this time last year (ie a few months after surgery), I could grip and lift my work laptop; now I can only do it if I grit my teeth against the pain in my forearm muscles. If I carry some shopping with that arm for a few minutes, I then can’t bend the arm to, say, lift the shopping onto a table without that same forearm muscle pain. It also gets stiff after about 20 mins driving.

What the heck is going on, and what can I do to fix it? Has anyone else experienced anything similar?

I am in a similar situation, though not as bad as you. I had surgery a year ago and since January, my right harm has not been as strong as it was last summer.
My forearm is slightly swollen, and I believe I have started developping lymphodema. I intend to talk to my onc at my next check up which is due soon.
I have started doing some lymphodema exercises which seems to help.

Have you noticed any changes in the shape of your arm? Do talk to your GP or your onc about it.

I had right mastect and lymph removal Aug 2006. Because i use my left arm now for more lifting, I find that this feels achey around the shoulder area. I think overuse of this arm has made it this way. Also I am on arimidex which is not supposed to be good for the joints. Hope this helps.
Best wishes,
Rosie x

I did some research and confirmed my conclusions with my GP: it’s tennis elbow. I reckon it’s because my upper arm muscles aren’t working so well because of the mastectomy, and so, to compensate, I’ve been over-using or mis-using other parts of the arm. Google doesn’t reveal any documented connections between mastectomy and tennis elbow, but this is my theory and I’m sticking to it!


I’ve got tennis elbow too and I think you are right about a link between breast surgery and tennis elbow. I developed it after long hours at a PC after lumpectomy + chemo + rads. That was four years ago - it has been the devil’s own job to control it.

I had a lot of time off sick with it - rest and more rest helped enormously (it got so bad I couldn’t hold a fork or spoon and feed myself with that hand!). A few things other things were also useful:

Prescription strength painkillers in bucketloads.

Ice-pack (but not for more than a few minutes at a time) or hot water bottle filled with chilled water.

I’ve got lymphoedema in the same arm (but not the hand), so I couldn’t wear an arm support, but I did get hold of a wrist support which helped a bit.

Lymphoedema and tennis elbow don’t mix well, either. For instance, swimming is good for lymphoedema but not too clever for tennis elbow. Prolonged rest (even a bit of immobilisation) is good for tennis elbow, defintely not recommended for lymphoedema. In the end, I had to bite the bullet and make my mind up as to which was causing me more grief, decided it was the tennis elbow and tackled that first. Once I’d got the pain from the tennis elbow under control, the lymphoedema started to improve, as well, of it’s own accord.

You have my sympathy. Tennis elbow is horribly painful and makes doing loads of everyday things very problematic, as you’ve discovered. I hope yours responds quickly to treatment.



I too have had problems in the left arm due to overuse and carrying heavy things as unable to do with right arm now. Also Arimidex is listed as causing carpal tunnel syndrome which causes pains in the wrist and pins and needles.