Severe Consistent Burning and Raw Sensation

themrslewis Member Posts: 7
edited August 2022 in Pain

I am new to this community…About a week post surgery I woke up from a nap and it felt like someone laid a hot iron on the back of my arm. While it feels like there should be blisters and irritation it looks normal. Assume it is because it is the nerves. Then a few days later the same pain started in my nipple. A little less like an iron amd more like someone took sandpaper to it.

Have tried:

Ice (was like shooting pain fireworks)

Bio freeze topical analgesic (didn't work)

Gabapentin (makes me tired so can't really function and sometimes slightly takes the edge off but doesn't always.

OxyContin (knocks me out so the pain feels surreal and not feeling extreme but can't and won't take regularly due to all the concerns)

From the posts I have found so far, which scare the bejeebees out of me, this doesn't seem unusual. Makes me feel so defeated thinking this could be more than just a short term situation.

TIA for any words of wisdom!



  • alicebastable
    alicebastable Member Posts: 1,924

    Well, the sentinel node removal does leave a raspy feeling where that incision is, but yours sounds quite extreme. I'd suggest calling your surgeon. And please, do not put biofreeze or any other topical solution on a recent incision without orders from your doctor!

  • themrslewis
    themrslewis Member Posts: 7

    Thanks, Alice. The pain is down the back of my arm (inside and around tricep) and my nipple but not near incisions. Not putting anything near incision. Tried one more thing tonight: lidocaine patch on back of arm. Helped a little while on but after removing it has made skin even more tender. Am so nervous that this will continue and make radiation therapy a noghtmare

  • rah2464
    rah2464 Member Posts: 1,192

    Themsrlewis I would have a conversation with your doctor. There are many nerve bundles in that armpit area and sometimes they get activated after surgery. Gabapentin can be very helpful if you can tolerate it. I had a particularly rough time and my PS injected some cortisone right into the area and things calmed down quite a bit. I continued to have "zingers" as I called them for some time but the frequency and intensity lessened. Ugh hope you can get some relief soon sorry you are having this experience.

  • maggie15
    maggie15 Member Posts: 549

    Themrslewis, I had the constant painful burning in my arm where yours is due to nerve damage from SLNB. My DD who is a hand surgery PA suggested nerve desensitization exercises (this seems to be a common problem after arm surgery.) Find six pieces of fabric with different textures (silky scarf, cotton, denim, corduroy, wool knit, fuzzy, etc. - I just opened my closet.) Starting with the smoothest fabric rub the painful area of the arm with it for a minute. Then go to the next fabric and do the same until you have used all six. It is suggested to do this 5 to 8 times a day. At the start I only got about a minute or two of relief, but slowly the burning area got shorter; the improvement was from the bottom. DD said that this makes the nerves work as they should rather than just "complaining" about their injury. Gabapentin was the only thing that helped me some, but it does have its side effects. I used it only after work and at night.

    I got some improvement during the 8 weeks before radiation. Not surprisingly, the pain got worse again due to swelling from rads. My RO sent me to acupuncture in the hospital's complementary medicine division which helped. Once active treatment stopped I had to find another acupuncturist and pay for the treatment myself, but it was worth it. After another 8 weeks the pain was tolerable and I just used gabapentin at night. The arm nerve pain was finally gone 9 months after surgery.

    I still have breast pain but only when it is touched. I wear a bra that doesn't hurt my breast (Hanes style #DHHU39) and still take gabapentin at night since the weight of a blanket causes pain. I cried during my first mammogram after surgery since it was so painful, but at least it was NED. Even though things aren't perfect a year and a half later they are so much better. Good luck getting this sorted out. You could ask your surgeon for a referral to a hand therapist.

  • orange546
    orange546 Member Posts: 1

    hello, I’m very new here and a week post surgery. Amongst 2 lumpectomies (bilateral breast cancer) I had both armpits with SLN biopsy. The actual scarring is healing well but the pain under each arm is worse today than it was straight after surgery. I was I treated to read about the Hand therapy you mentioned did it work for you long term? Not looking forward to radiation on both breasts and couldn’t even think about it with Thai armpit sensitivity.

  • maggie15
    maggie15 Member Posts: 549

    Orange546, the desensitization therapy did not immediately cure all the pain but it helped improve it noticeably so that it was more tolerable. You can give it a try on your own to see if it works for you. It took 9 months after surgery before the pain was completely gone and 9 months after that it has not come back. The "length" of the burning nerve pain decreased bit by bit from the area furthest from the armpit. Unfortunately, nerves heal slowly. I also took gabapentin and after radiation had 10 acupuncture treatments, so you might want to contact your surgeon about medication to help. I hope you find some relief.

  • themrslewis
    themrslewis Member Posts: 7

    Thanks, everyone! I will start desensitization exercise tomorrow. As luck would have it, it also feels Ike I may be starting to get cording. 🤷🏻♀️

  • Blinx
    Blinx Member Posts: 82

    Maggie -- Thanks so much for posting the desensitization exercises! I'll give them a try. I had a BMX a month ago with lymph nodes removed on both sides. I was numb in both arms on the flabby part in the back when I woke up. The surgeon said it would go away in a few weeks. It hasn't. I also have the "scraped" feeling. It feels worse on the left side where I lean on my comfy chair -- I had to pad the chair with a fleece blanket. I'll be facing radiation in a month or two as well -- we'll see how that affects it.