It has been found that women's shoulder movements change after mastectomy, says a new Australian study.
The research, which has appeared in the journal Physical Therapy, may help explain why some women report shoulder problems after surgery for breast cancer.
"A lot of women who have had mastectomy do have problems with their shoulder but because they're so relieved to survive their cancer, it tends to be not a high priority," ABC Science quoted physiotherapist Dr Jack Crosbie from the University of Sydney, as saying.
Crosbie and his team conducted the first biomechanical study of the problem wherein they compared the arm and upper trunk movement of women who had had a mastectomy with women of the same age who hadn't undergone the procedure.
None of the participants reported shoulder pain or restriction.
The women, aged between 45 and 80, carried out simple every-day movements, such as reaching their arms out.
Twenty-nine women had had a mastectomy on the same side as their dominant arm, while 24 women had had the surgery on the opposite side of their dominant arm.
Crosbie said: "Whichever side the surgery had occurred on there was a change in the coordination pattern of the shoulder girdle and the shoulder joint on that side, compared to the control women."
According to him, women who had had a mastectomy had the tendency to move their shoulder girdle (scapula) more and their shoulder joint (and arm) less when reaching the same distance as women without a mastectomy.
He said: "They were sort of hitching their shoulder, particularly on the side that had been operated on."
Crosbie noted that similar movement is seen in problems such as frozen shoulder, where people try to minimize moving the shoulder joint itself.
However, he added that was too early to say if the pattern of movement demonstrated by the post-mastectomy group of women could trigger restriction and pain.