September 22, 2003
Computer Usage With Post Breast Cancer Therapy Pain
J.C. Murray, RN, BSN
Since my bilateral mastectomy nine weeks ago, reaching for the computer mouse or keyboard seem to be the absolute worst positions for me when it comes to shoulder and arm pain. It seems the only way to get anything done on the computer is to lean back in my chair keeping my arm(s) outstretched yet close to my side. Whenever possible I use a laptop computer, where else, in my lap.
Apparently, keeping those shoulder and upper arm muscles from contracting minimizes the pain. By reducing the angle between the arm and the body, the binding or pressure that the otherwise contracting muscles place on the shoulder and axillary nerve branches may be reduced thus reducing the pain as well. Mind you, this is my simple theory. It doesn't always work well, and the amount of time this position is useful is limited.
Perhaps this may offer a temporary solution for some with similar arm and shoulder pain, but I certainly do not advocate anyone adopting these as long term work positions. Likewise, I suggest that all patients continue their range of motion exercises to the best of their ability as directed by their physician.
Fortunately, even though some days are more difficult than others, and my pain is increased, I also have some days that are a little easier to tolerate. It's then that I think maybe I'm on my way back to work. Maybe soon.