Friday, July 13, 2012

Axillary Webbing or Cording

I titled the post what I did because I want to anyone else looking for information on that condition to find my blog.

I'm not above using my mastectomy to increase my blog traffic.

Just kidding.

Seriously, though, there just isn't much out there about this condition from a first-person perspective that isn't utterly scary, so I wanted to give an upbeat, optimistic view.

This will be a bit repetitive as my last post was about this, but I wanted to provide an update.

About a week and a half ago, I noticed something that felt like a tendon extending from my armpit when I would raise my affected arm (the arm on the side of my mastectomy). It caused great pain around my bicep and inside my elbow, and it restricted my ability to raise my arm or straighten it. Severly. I was incapable of straightening my arm without feeling pain, and I was unable to raise my arm above my head and straighten it at all.

A few night ago, I began researching on the 'Net. Apparently, this is not an uncommon side effect when lymph nodes are removed.

In short, the news on outcomes was more than a bit depressing. However, the treatment indicated is exclusively physical therapy. From a P.T. experienced in working with axillary webbing. After reading a couple of studies, I was not optimistic. In fact, I was downright scared that it was something I was going to have to live with for the rest of my life. I was decidedly freaked.

I indicated in my last post that I didn't want to share the picture that I took, but I've decided to go ahead and show it, in the interest of providing information to other women looking for someone who has gone through this.

Just so you know, it ain't pretty.

This is what it looked like on Tuesday of this week.

Let me assure you, it feels a lot worse than it looks.

You can kinda' see how the cord curves up towards my bicep. Follow the shadow. In all the pictures and information I could find on the Web, the cording or webbing traveled straight down the arm. This cord curved around my bicep. That freaked me out even more.

So, the next day after the depressing Internet research, I went to my P.T. for a regularly scheduled follow-up. In response to her "how are you doing?" I told her about the cording and asked her if she knew about axillary webbing. She said she did and got right down to business.

I stripped to the waist (not something you normally do during a P.T. appointment) and lay down on the PT table. She conducted the usual measurements, checking for swelling and range of motion improvement. The results were not good for either: Increased swelling and not a lot of improvement in my ROM.

After measuring, she began working on the cording in my armpit, manipulating, massaging, pushing, pulling, squeezing, and in all ways tortuous, caused me the most bizzare kind of pain I have ever experienced, and let me tell you, I have experienced some various kinds of pain in my life. 

It got so bad that I made her stop for a few minutes because I thought I was going to throw up.  

After the nausea passed, I laid back down, and she went at it again. Oh. My. Heck. I now get why some people call P.T. pain and torture.

I was flat on my back and she had my upper arm at a 45 degree angle, so that my arm pit was right next to my ear. Her hand was also right next to my ear.

After just about 20 more seconds, I heard her finger crack and pop, and it startled me so much I flinched. I immediately asked her if she was okay, and she laughed a bit. She told me the noise I heard was my cord "releasing."

Wow. I raised my arm straight above my head. I got up and moved it every which way. No pain. Tremendously improved ROM. Wow.


This is what it looked like later that night.

She tried to explain what happened, but without knowing the technical terminology, the best I can explain it is to say that the cord was kind of stuck to something else, but she got it unstuck through the manipulation and massage.

Words cannot express how relieved and happy I am about this outcome. So, so happy. So, so relieved.


  1. That is just great! (I mean that you got it to move and feel better!) So, is this something she'll have to continue to do for a period of time to prevent it from coming back? Sounds just agonizing. What is the cording? Is it scar tissue? Not sure I completely understand. I will ask my dad about it. He was an OB/GYN.

    1. I don't completely understand it, either. I think these are cords or webbing that the lymph nodes are attached to, and when they are removed, the cords latch to something else. That is total conjecture on my part. If I'm right, then it's possible I may have to return again to PT for relief. I certainly won't be able to do to myself what she did to me.


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