Shoulder & arm pain

Here I am again--this is my go-to place whenever a question pops up. I know my doctor should be my first go-to, but sometimes I just want to know if anyone else has had a similar experience. So here goes: 

I've mentioned before that my pacemeker placement seems to me less than ideal, being so near my left armpit that I sometimes feel it when I move my arm in certain ways. There is something else that I have noticed but I'm not sure if I can blame the device. I get pain in my left shoulder that sometimes causes the entire arm to ache. I remember that during the operation, under local anaesthetic, I felt severe pain in that shoulder. It felt like something was being repeatedly pulled, and the pain was enough to make me cry out. Could this be a nerve that has been disturbed or damaged at the time (7 montha ago now) and if so, will it eventually heal & go away? Or, am I trying to blame arthritic aches & pains on the pacemaker? I'm asking now because the pain was worse than ever yesterday & last night--after scrubbing walls, so go figure, right? Does anyone else in "the club" have achy arms?


Achy Arms

by Marybird - 2021-09-06 10:08:25

Hi TLee,

I don't have the issues with the pacemaker in such close proximity with my armpit, in fact I think the EP placed my pacemaker in an optimum position to minimize its appearance or interfering with anything. But I do get achy muscles sometimes, after I've engaged in activities I'm not accustomed to doing, or have done a little more vigorously than usual, and these include arm and shoulder muscles. I've been doing arm exercises with weights, having increased the weights lately, as a part of my exercise program, and notice some aching and soreness in both the shoulders, and pectoral muscles the next day. It's a bit sore near the pacemaker too but I think that's probably due to the muscles in the general area.

I know my arms also get sore when I do things that involve lifting my arms over my head for an extended time, or repeated up/down arm motions- I notice it when I trim bushes, and I think washing walls would also fall into that category. I'd think your soreness would be more due to the unaccustomed up and down movement of your arms washing those walls. 

It's possible, I'd guess, that your pacemaker being close to some of the muscles, ligaments near your shoulder or armpit might irritate them during vigorous movement, but other than that, I can't think it would be harmful. 

I find relief from the muscle pain, if it gets that bad, with acetominophen. 


Shoulder and arm pain

by Gemita - 2021-09-06 11:24:35


For peace of mind, I would ask your general doctor to examine the area since there are many possible causes for your continuing pain which may or may not be due to the trauma of implant.  Perhaps some blood tests and a general health check would be in order too.

I am three years on and in the last 24 hours I have had prolonged left armpit pain (pressure type pain which is extending down from my left armpit, to the inner left upper arm and causing some numbness too).  I intend speaking to my doctor to rule out lymphatic involvement.  This pain was first noticed following my implant, although I have had left axilla surgery.  My pacemaker is also close to my left armpit and I have developed an extensive network of prominent collateral veins around my device, since my subclavian vein was traumatised (slightly occluded, restricting blood flow) during implant.

In your shoes, I would ask your doctors for an opinion and maybe some investigations?  I would specifically want to know whether this discomfort could still be due to irritation/trauma/narrowing of a blood or lymph vessel, or due to nerve irritation/trauma from the implant procedure or whether this could be part of the frozen shoulder condition?  An orthopaedic opinion might be helpful to rule the latter in or out or other shoulder problems.  But I would get it checked.  Hopefully as Mary says it is nothing more than aching muscles since I can see you have been busy, but I would err on the side of caution, since it could be referred pain coming from another area, totally unrelated to your pacemaker procedure.  Even angina pain may be felt in the left arm and shoulder.  In any event you may require some physical therapy to help break the vicious pain circle.  I hope for the very best

Body adjustment

by Theknotguy - 2021-09-06 13:22:58

I looked back in your notes and it appears your pacemaker was implanted about seven months ago.  That would be about right for the pain you described.  

You used to be able to go on YouTube and find a pacemaker implant video.  I think you still can.  Haven't done so for a while.   After you watch the video you'll wonder why you don't hurt more than you do.  Some of those doctors are really rough when they do the implant procedure.  In addition to the trauma of the implant procedure the area under the clavicle where they put the wires is really sensitive.  Then you have the trauma of the skin being stretched to make the pacemaker "pocket".  You have one additional problem  - it may be that your skin is really elastic and the pacemaker may have moved.  Don't know yet.

There is a lot of healing that goes on post implant.  I went back to working in a charity wood shop at nine months.  I was OK while I was working there but the next day it would feel like someone had wrapped my pacemaker in sandpaper and scrubbed it around in the pocket.  I'd be off for three days.  Cold packs, warm packs, and Tylenol were my friends.  Then I'd go back and repeat the process.  I think the pain finally quit after the first year to year and a half.  Now I can do what I want.  It just takes time for the body to heal and we all heal at different rates.  

I'd also get severe muscle spasms just below my left neck area. I think they were caused by the wires going in under the clavicle. I finally ended up going to a licensed massage therapist.  Key words are licensed and therapist.  She was able to help a lot.  So your answer is yes, there is a lot that can be blamed on having the pacemaker inserted and inside your body.  Eventually everything adjusts and the pain goes away.  

I also volunteered at the hospital where I got my pacemaker.  Worked on the heart floor.  Took out a lady who had extremely stretchy skin.  Her pacemaker had moved to under her armpit and she had to have it moved and tied down.  So pacemaker movement can happen.  Talk to your EP about that.  

So, yeah, banged up muscles and irritated nerves can cause problems for a while.  Eventually it will go away.  For me it was about the first two years but I had the additional problem of having CPR and that did a lot of damage too.  Maybe not so much for you.  Point being the pain can go on for a while.

Otherwise, hope your adjustment is going well.  

Achy Arms

by Stache - 2021-09-13 18:52:46

I have my dual-chamber PM installed 6-months ago and as it has healed I have pain in my shoulder sometimes a lot.  A few years ago I shattered my collar bone same side my PM is implated and they had to cut a nerve cord for the metal brace install.  My pacer wires run in the same area where my nerve cord was cut.  It hurts a lot if I lay on my left shoulder.  The pacer gets stuck in the shoulder muscles at certain times and that really hurts.


You know you're wired when...

You know the difference between hardware and software.

Member Quotes

I just want to share about the quality of life after my pacemaker, and hopefully increase awareness that lifestyles do not have to be drastically modified just because we are pacemaker recipients.