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Critical Reviews™ in Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine
SJR: 0.121 SNIP: 0.228 CiteScore™: 0.17

ISSN Print: 0896-2960
ISSN Online: 2162-6553

Critical Reviews™ in Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine

DOI: 10.1615/CritRevPhysRehabilMed.2016018196
pages 121-133

Physical Therapy Treatment of Axillary Web Syndrome: A Literature Review

Mary Wills Jesse
Clinical Specialist, Decatur Memorial Hospital, 2300 N. Edward St., Decatur, IL 62526

ABSTRACT

Axillary web syndrome (AWS) describes a self-limiting post-axillary node dissection pain syndrome occurring in a subset of breast cancer patients. The documented incidence in the literature varies from 0.6% to 85.4%. Symptomatic AWS presents with pain, feelings of tightness, and restricted shoulder range of motion and/or numbness. Pain is typically described in the ipsilateral axilla with possible radiation in to the arm with shoulder movement. A systematic search was conducted in the PubMed PEDro (Physiotherapy Evidence Database) and CENTRAL (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials) databases. The purpose of this review was to identify the value of physical therapy treatment for patients with AWS. The literature described improvement of symptoms with manual therapy techniques and therapeutic exercise for mobility. These findings suggest that physical therapy may have a useful role in the treatment of AWS. The decrease of symptoms related this syndrome helps to improve the quality of life and allow for continued treatments such as radiation therapy. The results of the review will help healthcare providers make educated clinical decisions in the treatment for AWS and provide precautions to be observed in the treatment of these patients.


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