Breast surgery and axillary web syndrome – cording

October 21, 2018

Cording after breast surgery is usually a side effect that occurs after surgery to remove a sentinel lymph node or multiple lymph nodes from the area of your underarm. This procedure is most often done in relation to breast cancer treatment and surgery’s.  Lymphatic cording refers to the rope or cord like area’s that develop just under the skin in the area under your arm. It may also extend partially down the arm, in very rare cases it can extend all the way down to your wrist.

Axillary web syndrome can also be caused by scar tissue from breast cancer surgery in the chest area without the removal of any lymph nodes. Axillary web syndrome may appear days, weeks, or months after your surgery. The cords will appear on your chest near where your have had a breast surgery such as a lumpectomy. It is believed the cause to be from the lymphatic fluid solidifying. This is usually due to the trauma that surgery causes to the area, the solidified fluid is what feels like cords or webbing.



You can usually see and feel these cord or rope like areas under the arm. They’re usually raised but in some cases may not be visible. They’re painful and restrict the arm movement. They cause a tight feeling, especially when trying to raise your arm. The loss of range of motion in the affected arm may keep you from being able to raise your arm above you shoulder. You may not be able to straighten your arm fully because the elbow area may be restricted. These movements can make daily activities difficult.


Lymphatic drainage and various massage techniques may be used to treat axillary web syndrome such as nerve gliding and scar tissue release. This will help to break up scar tissue and improve a person’s range of motion.

Guided stretches

  • Lift the arms out to the sides and straighten the elbows
  • Raise the hands until feeling a stretch
  • Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds
  • Repeat the stretch a few times ranging the arms a little higher each time

Holding the stretches for about 30 seconds is important. If the stretches are too brief they will not be effective in lengthening the soft tissue and improving rang of motions.

Massage for this syndrome after surgery and when an oncologist has given permission for the treatment to commence is the only time this treatment should be done, not during chemotherapy or radiation. Stretches can be done during chemotherapy and radiation but not massage.

Lymphatic drainage and various massage techniques should only be performed by a qualified practitioner who is trained in this area. Massage is fully qualified and trained to assist people through this painful and restricting time. Surfcoast Massage is located in Torquay and Jan Juc and can be contacted on 0438668878 call Lisa to arrange an appointment.