Cording, otherwise known as Axillary Web Syndrome (AWS) is a common post-op complication that can occur after breast or axillary surgery (surgery in the armpit). It feels like a tight cord running from the armpit down the inner arm and it can continue to the palm of the hand or across the chest. It can occur anywhere between a few weeks, months or in rare cases years after surgery.
While the exact cause isn’t fully understood it is thought that surgery in these areas damages the delicate connective tissue surrounding the lymph vessels. This leads to scarring and hardening of the lymph vessels, which results in these cords. These cords may limit arm and shoulder movement, and in many cases can be quite painful.
The good news is that cording responds extremely well to experienced treatment. The best way to address cording is through improved mobility.
This begins with gentle stretching exercises during the first weeks after surgery which will be prescribed as part of your post-operative physiotherapy program.
This is followed by management with our allied health team, including physiotherapy for low-level laser treatment and exercises, and osteopathy for tissue mobilisation to reduce your pain and discomfort. Your surgeon or breast care nurse will recommend which form of treatment best suits your needs, or whether a combination treatment is appropriate.