72.7K members
1.2M posts
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

Exercise and bad arm


Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hi how are you, my name is jacki, I had mastectomy year 2000 first stage. To me it sounds like your struggling with answersxx


Re: Exercise and bad arm

In addition to Chick's very helpful post with the NICE guidelines, here is a link to the Breast Cancer Care booklet: Reducing the risk of lymphoedema




Here are some extracts from it.


On page 14 it gives advice about injections, blood tests and blood pressure readings, as well as travel.


Can I have an injection, blood taken, or blood

pressure taken from the ‘at risk’ arm?


There are different opinions among healthcare professionals about using the ‘at risk’ arm for these procedures.


There is no strong evidence to suggest that taking blood or taking a blood pressure reading from your ‘at risk’ arm will cause lymphoedema, but current recommendations are that the unaffected arm should be used whenever possible.


  • Injections into a vein (for example, chemotherapy) will usually be given into the unaffected arm. When that is not possible, your clinician may consider a central venous line for multiple injections, or the ‘at risk’ arm if a limited number of injections will be given.

  • Injections into the muscle will probably be given into the unaffected arm or another suitable part of the body.

  • Blood tests will usually be taken from the unaffected arm.

  • If possible use the unaffected arm for blood pressure readings. These

    readings can be taken from your leg if both arms are affected.


  • Travel

    When travelling you may want to consider the following.

  • During flights or long train/car journeys, do gentle exercises such as clenching and unclenching your fist and shrugging your shoulders.

  • Protect against insect bites by using insect repellent (at least 50% DEET) and, where appropriate, a mosquito net.

  • Carry antiseptic cream for cuts and grazes.

  • If you are travelling to a country where quick access to good quality

    medical care is difficult, ask your GP for a course of antibiotics to take with you in case of infection. If you develop signs of infection in your ‘at risk’ arm or hand, treat the infection as early as possible.

    There is no evidence that air travel or cabin pressure triggers lymphoedema, or that wearing a compression sleeve (usually used by people with lymphoedema) will help to prevent swelling. In fact, an ill-fitting sleeve may cause more problems.

On page 13 it gives general advice about skin care.


Protect your skin

Infection in your ‘at risk’ arm, hand or breast can cause swelling, and may damage your lymphatic system, leading to lymphoedema. The following tips can help reduce your risk of developing an infection.


  • Moisturising the affected area/s daily will help prevent dry and cracked skin. This allows your skin to protect you against infection and can reduce any damage to the skin. Use a moisturising cream that suits your skin type.

  • Where possible, protect against damage to the skin. Use sunscreen to avoid sunburn, use oven gloves when cooking, apply insect repellent, wear protective gloves in the garden (particularly when near rose bushes or brambles) and take care when cutting your nails.

  • If you have a cut or a graze, keep it clean and use antiseptic cream. If you notice any signs of infection (redness, heat, tenderness or swelling) contact your GP as you may need antibiotics.


    While there is no strong evidence to support them the precautions below may help reduce the risk of developing lymphoedema.

  • Wear comfortable clothing and avoid tight-fitting jewellery.

  • Take care when removing hair from under your arm. Waxing and

    razor blades can damage the skin and increase your risk of infection. Electric razors are gentler on the skin. Depilatory (hair removal) cream can be used, but check first that you are not sensitive or allergic to the cream.

  • Take care when carrying heavy shoulder bags.

  • Hot baths, saunas and steam rooms may put extra strain on your

    lymphatic system, so you might not want to use them regularly, or

    avoid them altogether.

  • Deep tissue massage and heat therapy will encourage more fluid to

    the treated area so you may want to avoid this on your ‘at risk’ side. However, many practitioners are now trained to work with people who have, or are at risk of, lymphoedema, so check with your therapist.


The bottom line of all this appears to be to live as normal a life as possible without over-anxiety, but to bear in mind that the 'at risk' arm is no longer protected by a lymphatic system (if you've had axillary node clearance) or is reliant on a damaged system (if you've had only a few nodes removed), so any injury to it is potentially more serious than to your unaffected arm, especially if an infection gets in in a break in the skin.


The most important thing is not to get so worried that anxiety ruins your quality of life.


Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hello all,


If it is any help, then below are NICE Guidelines (England) regarding the matter:


1.12 Complications of local treatment and menopausal symptoms




1.12.1 Inform people with breast cancer about the risk of developing lymphoedema, and give them relevant written information before treatment with surgery and radiotherapy. [2009]

1.12.2 Give advice on how to prevent infection that may cause or exacerbate lymphoedema to people who have had treatment for breast cancer. [2009, amended 2018]

1.12.3 When informing people with breast cancer about the risk of developing lymphoedema, advise them that:

  • they do not need to restrict their physical activity

  • there is no consistent evidence of increased risk of lymphoedema associated with air travel, travel to hot countries, manicures, hot‑tub use or sports injuries

  • there is no consistent evidence of increased risk of lymphoedema associated with medical procedures (for example, blood tests, injections, intravenous medicines and blood pressure measurement) on the treated side, and the decision to perform medical procedures using the arm on the treated side should depend on clinical need and the possibility of alternatives. [2018]


Mind you I have never had any one really discuss the risk with me or inform me of any dos and don'ts. I have raised it with some medical staff at times and they do not seem to know very much about it.  I just do blood tests, blood pressure etc on the non surgical side  arm anyway irrespective of what it says above as it is no big deal for me to avoid the other side at the moment.


All the best,


Chick X




Re: Exercise and bad arm

Thanks all
All very useful info
I still have my bc nurses card I guess I’m allowed to ring her


Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hello Everyone


I had axillary node clearance on my left side and I am left handed/armed. It seems the advice I've been given by my Breast Care Nurse is much like other people's. It was as follows:


• Carry out the exercises in the Breast Cancer Care leaflet to regain arm and shoulder movement after surgery. Do these little and often but don't overdo.


• Not exercising the affected arm is more likely to prompt lymphoedema than moderate, regular exercise and use.


• Gradually return to normal usage whilst being careful not to carry heavy shopping that will strain the damaged side. Test yourself out first.


• Incorporate the types of exercise in your BCC leaflet into everyday life, e.g. moderate stretching when putting washing on the line.


• When carrying out stressful exercises like ironing, do this in small spurts rather than one long session.


• Judge for yourself what is likely to strain the affected arm and what it can cope with. If, before BC, you used to carry fairly heavy weights regularly, work gradually back up to/near that level but be careful not to strain the arm, and limit the time for which you do anything strenuous.


• For all household and garden jobs, wear protective gloves and cover your vulnerable arm to avoid scratches and cuts.


• Keep Savlon cream and sticking plasters/surgical tape and sterile bandages to hand should you damage yourself and seek help promptly at any sign of infection, e.g. redness, high temperature, throbbing, swelling.


• Don't let anyone take blood from or insert a canula into the affected arm. Neither should blood pressure be taken on that side.


• When playing with pets, use for preference the unaffected arm. Animal bites can be dagerous. Cats' teeth are very high in bacteria (I think dogs' are too). Scratches can be dangerous if the area is not protected by your lymphatic system.


Remind Nurses of where to take blood

When I had a bisphosphonate infusion recently, I had to have a blood test first (usual procedure) before going up to the Treatment Unit. The Care Assistant knew not to take it from my left arm, but she automatically took it from the vein in the bend of my right arm on the inside of the elbow. So, once I was upstairs in the Treatment Unit, I discovered that vein couldn't be used for the infusion. A different vein had to be used otherwise the bisphosphonate would leak out onto my skin through the earlier puncture. Fortunately, the TU nurse was able to insert a canula in a different vein in my right hand, and fortunately, having old lady's hands, the veins there are pretty prominent. I shall know next time to remind the CA to take the blood sample from my right hand so the vein in the crook of my arm can be reserved for the infusion.


Even with all these precautions, my BCN said we are likely to damage the vulnerable arm at some time. It's not possible to use it sensibly and never damage it at all, but we should just be careful. I think she meant be sensible without becoming neurotic.


My understanding is that the above precautions have to be taken forever, on account of the permanent damage to the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes don't grow back, so once they've been taken out that's it.


Lincs Lady, I suggest you ask your GP and, if he/she can't give clear advice, ask if you could be referred to a specialist Breast Care Nurse for, say, a one-off appointment (if they won't give you more than one). I'm presuming you are no longer under a BCN on a regular basis. Different doctors and nurses might be giving you different views if they aren't specialists.


I have read on the Macmillan site that patients who've had node clearance from both axillas can sometimes have blood taken from a leg.


As regards body-building/re-shaping exercises, I would request specialst advice before trying anything.


I hope that helps.




Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hello Fuffs,
If still looking for a swimming costume, I got a really pretty, comfortable and practical one from Asda. As with all their post surgery items, it is online purchase only and you can collect at a store for free or have delivered. As for prosthetic, did you get a permanent one from tge hospital which you can also use for swimming? Mind you, I keep the first softee I got from hospital after surgery for swimming costume only (just a bleeding shame can't swim at the mo!).Also, the permanent prosthesis I got from hospital can also be used for swimming. You can obviously buy prosthesis if you wish as well. I found NHS staff very generous and have ended up with two softees, extra stuffing and two permanent - one being a stick on!

Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hi, I’ve gone back to rowing, and go regularly to Physio. I think it’s good to start small and don’t bring on board any old expectations. It builds up quicker than you think. My Physio is very knowledgeable and has worked with other athletes with BC who wanted to get back to their sports which has also helped me to be more confident. I have a pain in my arm, side and chest. I pay a bit when I row but it’s not awful. There are lots of body weight circuits you can do and you can move from light bands to heavier bands to light weights, etc.

I don’t know what the research is - could never find good info. I got conflicting advice too and came to the conclusion it’s not a research priority and that most people with BC are older and not into serious sport.
I must say when I started rowing again it would totally wipe me out for the rest of the day. Now, it’s much better. When I’m out rowing I forget about it all so it’s a good holiday.
Good luck!

Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hi Fuffs - you can get swimming costumes with pouches and also prosthetics from Nicola Jane - telephone order or on-line. You get their products without VAT as a BC patient which helps, and I tend to go for their discount weekends and sale offers when I can.


Re: Exercise and bad arm

I was told to ‘spare’ my arm as much as possible in 2015. However I went back to Pilates and gradually built up over the last 3 years so can now use 1kg weights without issues. Two things happened- I read that in the USA they recommend graded exercise to build up strength rather than tell you not to use your arm ever again - and last Christmas I broke my wrist on the non-lymphoedema arm and just had to get on with it. All good so far - good luck! The one thing I can’t do is sleep on my bad side- horrible.


Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hi lincs_lady, wonder if you are anywhere near me, I live in Spalding? I had a right side mx in 2017 after three lumpectomies and am now considering swimming again, if I can find a mx swimming costume and prosthetic. Anyone got any suggestions for where I could buy one of these? I am very lopsided at the moment, flat on one side and J cup on the other! May have equalisation surgery on the remaining boob in the future. I have a bit of lymphodoema on the surgery side as I had quite a few nodes removed during the various surgeries, all clear thank goodness. I would say any exercise that doesn’t involve lifting heavy weights would be OK. Take things slowly to start with and see how things go.

Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hi there , thanks for relying ladies . I’ve never been to a meet up lol. I shall have to google those exercises as I have no clue what they are lol


Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hi Lincs-lady


i saw my surgeon last week, I was diagnosed 2014 and was asking him about excercise. He said they don't want repetitive lifting or anything that uses the pecs, I.e rowing or pull downs. You can do upright row and tricep exercises (good for bingo wings), bicep curls but not clean and press for too many reps. All with low weight. He said no bp but if blood can't be taken from good arm taking blood is OK from at risk arm. They don't like stuff being put in. He also agreed not carrying heavy shopping on that arm.


I also asked him about lymphodaema and flying - he said short haul is ok, keep the arm moving, it's the leaving the arm in a lowered position they don't like and especially cuts and grazes, keep antiseptic wipe with you. 


I think we have chatted before. I live near Grantham. Does the group still meet at the pub near Lincoln county


Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hi thanks for the reply yes we were told no lifting no heavy work no handbags carried on that side no blood pressure no bloods watch cuts etc


Re: Exercise and bad arm

Hiya. I read somewhere (and not sure of source) but weight exercise on surgery side can reduce risk of lymphedema. I had surgery in Feb a single mx and anc I've never been told by anyone about any restrictions to my right arm and have been using it normally. You just have to be careful of any cuts which may get infected. It's the infection risk that increased lymphedema risk.

Exercise and bad arm

Hi everyone! Please can I ask what is the latest research or information on exercise/weights/using and bloods and bp etc on your bc arm side ? I finished treatment in 2010 and then had 5 yrs tamoxifen. Was always told no bp or bloods to be done on that side ( had 7-10 nodes removed I think for testing) and not over use it with bag carrying etc .
Is this still the case with latest research? Finding it hard to find out as all Drs and nurses say different some try to do bloods there but I don’t allow it they have to use feet lol as other arm veins have gone from chemo.
I don’t particularly like after it work wise I carry stuff with it and use it as normal
I put on 2 stone a few yrs back and then lost it all within 6 months due to on going stomache problems (from
Chemo??) it has left me with awful bingo wings lol arms like sticks now seems no muscle at all, I’m 52 which I guess dosnt help!
Can I start to do some low weight at home with bottles or something does anyone know? Thanks for reading x