Relieve Shoulder Pain after Breast Cancer Surgery

Relieve Shoulder Pain after Breast Cancer Surgery

For many women the end of breast cancer surgery is accompanied by lingering side-effects…

A recent study has found that most women who have undergone breast cancer surgery experience subsequent shoulder/ arm problems, even 1.5 years following surgery. It is common for women to experience pain, numbness, tingling and weakness on the side of the body on which surgery was performed.

This pain and weakness may limit quality of life and functional capacity. These problems are particularly likely following a mastectomy or axillary dissection (underarm lymph node removal) and can endure chronically. A physiotherapist can help ease pain and tension, regain flexibility and improve function.

Common Arm/ Shoulder Problems Following Breast Cancer Surgery – (Symptoms)

  • shoulder-painLymphedema
  • Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
  • Nerve Pain
  • Scar Tissue and stiffness
  • ‘Frozen Shoulder’

Things you can do to alleviate pain

Exercises after surgery  – a guide for people who have had breast cancer surgery

Level One exercises – Increase ability to move the arm and shoulder and increase circulation
Level two exercises – Regaining motion/ range and strength

How can a Physiotherapist help?

Physiotherapy can help improve ease shoulder pain and tension, and increase flexibility and strength using

  • Massage of soft tissue adhesions (radiation) and scar tissue
  • Joint mobilisation – particular attention to thoracic ring mobility and the shoulder and neck
  • Specific exercises and education – to restore flexibility, retrain muscle function and every day movement patterns

What are Thoracic Rings?

A thoracic ring comprises of 2 ribs articulating at the front with the sternum (breast bone) and at the back with the thoracic spine (mid back).

One side of the thorax being adhered (by scar tissue) will affect one or more thoracic rings. If one ring is stiff or rotated, it will affect the position of the body’s centre of mass and proprioception (where it is in space). It also affects muscle attachment sites and can make muscles either tight or weak. This in turn can affect the rest of the body; the neck, the pelvis, hips and feet, actually any part of the body can be affected by a thoracic ring torsion. Read more about the Thoracic Rings approach.

Therapists at Physio Body & Sole are trained in the Thoracic Ring approach which looks at the the whole body, particularly the ribs, and their effect on muscular imbalance on the shoulder and whole spine. The rings are intimately related to the shoulder. Treatment of the thoracic rings can be the key to regaining shoulder movement, particularly if you have tried traditional treatment.

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