Thanks for posting here.
It’s not unusual for people to experience tightness across the chest wall following a mastectomy. This can then impact on their ability to move their arm and shoulder as you’ve described. This is often due to scar tissue formation and these effects will usually lessen as time goes by.
As you only had your surgery within the last 3 months, it really is quite early days to have regained full movement. This is because following surgery, scars go through a series of healing stages.
Remodelling of the scar can take up to 2 years to complete. Regular stretching exercises and massage can aid the recovery of the tissues and muscles to help restore flexibility and function to the chest area. It is often necessary to continue to do these for at least two years after surgery.
As you are struggling to do the exercises you’ve been given, it sounds as though it would be a good idea to get some specific advice from your team. If you haven’t already done so, you can contact your breast care nurse to talk this through further and arrange for you to be seen if necessary. She will also be able to refer you to a physiotherapist if needed, who will be able to assess the problems you are having and recommend a plan to improve this.
It may also be useful to talk to your team to reassess the pain relief you are taking to make sure you are as comfortable as possible whilst continuing to do some arm exercises.
Regular massage may also be of help when a scar feels tight. This should be done gently in small circular motions, to provide sustained stretching to help with the ‘remodelling’ of a tight scar. Many people use moisturizing creams or oils to help with this. As massage needs to gently push and pull the skin using creams or oils in large amounts may prevent this happening and it may be preferable to apply these following massage. If you wish to try the use of massage, a physiotherapist may also be able to give you some information on its use to help with the problems you are experiencing.
Do call our Helpline if you would like to talk this through further or have any other questions. Your call will be confidential and the number is free from UK landlines and all mobile networks.
The number is 0808 800 6000 (Text relay prefix 18001).
Our opening hours are Monday to Friday 9am - 4pm and 9am -1pm on Saturday. Out of hours you can leave a message and we will call you back when we next open.
Breast Cancer Now Nurse
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Hi I originally had a mastectomy on the 3rd of December 2019 and since have had trouble getting my arm moving I do the excersises given but I've had so much pain and tightness in my chest wall muscles and my arm. I've since had second surgery to remove an abscess that developed and the surgeon left the wound open I'm still healing a month later and I'm really struggling to do the recommended excersises. My question is how long do these take to feel normal and be able to lift my arm without pain and discomfort everything just feels so tight still.