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What causes stabbing sensation in the arms post a breast reconstruction surgery?

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Posted on Sat, 13 May 2017
Question: Hello, in 2008 i had bilateral breast lumpectomies with axilliary lymph gland sampling each side (2 glands each side). I returned to have bilateral mastectomies, though no cancer had spread to the lymph glands. I received 15 treatments of radiotherapy.

In 2010 i had bilateral reconstructions using the lat dorsi muscles. Surgery was successful but i did suffer "cording" for a while. Every so often i would wake in the night with a stabbing feeling under my left arm. It might even be on the site of lymph gland sampling.

Yesterday morning i awoke with this same stabbing feeling under my arm, except that the pain was cascading to my elbow and above my left shoulder blade. It really does feel like a trapped nerve. However, i am wondering if at this stage (7 years on from surgery) i should still feel this kind of jabbing pain? Do nerves take this long to heal?
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Answered by Dr. Prof. Kunal Saha (2 hours later)
Brief Answer:
Such a pain is frequently encountered by people undergoing such surgeries

Detailed Answer:
Thanks for asking on HealthcareMagic.

I have gone through your query carefully and understand your concerns.

What you are feeling is known as 'phantom pain'. The nerves supply various parts of the body. It is like a bunch of wires that were connected to various switches. Once the body parts (the devices which the wires connected) are removed, the nerves (wires) still remain active.

If somehow they get stimulated, they carry the same signal to the brain that they would have otherwise carried. This leads to a sense of pain when the actual organ is no longer there but the nerves are still active.

It may be years before the brain gets notified that it needs to inactivate the electrical connection to those nerves.

Let me know if I could help further.

Regards

Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Arnab Banerjee
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Follow up: Dr. Prof. Kunal Saha (28 minutes later)
Many thanks to you. That was a good detailed and undersandable reply. I gadnt had that nerve for some years and it returned suddenly. Ive possibly been lying in an awkward position in bed!?!? I just hope it gets the signal soon that i dont like it. Thanks for your help .
doctor
Answered by Dr. Prof. Kunal Saha (3 minutes later)
Brief Answer:
Glad to be of service

Detailed Answer:
It is hard to determine what exactly stimulated the nerve. Let us hope that it eventually goes away.

Feel free to ask me back if you ever have a health related query in the future.

Regards
Above answer was peer-reviewed by : Dr. Arnab Banerjee
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Answered by
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Dr. Prof. Kunal Saha

General & Family Physician

Practicing since :1954

Answered : 4471 Questions

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What causes stabbing sensation in the arms post a breast reconstruction surgery?

Brief Answer: Such a pain is frequently encountered by people undergoing such surgeries Detailed Answer: Thanks for asking on HealthcareMagic. I have gone through your query carefully and understand your concerns. What you are feeling is known as 'phantom pain'. The nerves supply various parts of the body. It is like a bunch of wires that were connected to various switches. Once the body parts (the devices which the wires connected) are removed, the nerves (wires) still remain active. If somehow they get stimulated, they carry the same signal to the brain that they would have otherwise carried. This leads to a sense of pain when the actual organ is no longer there but the nerves are still active. It may be years before the brain gets notified that it needs to inactivate the electrical connection to those nerves. Let me know if I could help further. Regards