Shoulder and upper-arm pain is not uncommon for those who have had REALIZE Band or LAP-BAND surgery. Although this side effect may seem unusual given your arms and shoulders are nowhere near the surgical site, the pain you’re feeling is often a direct result of pressure being placed on your phrenic nerve.
What is the phrenic nerve?
The phrenic nerve originates in your neck and passes down between your lung and heart to the diaphragm. At the time you undergo adjustable gastric banding surgery, your bariatric surgeon pumps gas into your abdominal region to lift skin and tissue away from the surgical site. This is necessary to provide your surgeon with the visibility he or she needs to fasten the silicone band around the upper portion of your stomach during surgery.
Following surgery, some gas can remain trapped against your diaphragm, resulting in pressure buildup. In turn, pressure buildup can irritate the phrenic nerve, and cause pain to radiate along up the nerve and manifest in the upper arm and shoulder.
Coping with phrenic nerve pain
In most cases, phrenic nerve pain only lasts a few days to a week following gastric banding surgery, and typically goes away on its own. The best way to relieve pain associated with the phrenic nerve is to walk around and be as active as possible, and adhere to the post-surgery diet your bariatric surgeon has recommended. Consuming the wrong types of foods, especially foods high in sodium, can cause bloating and worsen existing pain. If pain continues to persist, try using a heating pad or drink warm beverages to release gas buildup.
Addressing long-term nerve pain
Some gastric banding patients continue to experience upper arm and shoulder pain during the weeks following surgery. As a result of having the REALIZE Band or LAP-BAND fastened around the upper portion of your stomach, you may experience irritation or pain when sitting in certain positions for an extended period of time, lying down, or when overeating. In most cases, your nerve pain will gradually dissipate as you continue to lose weight, and many patients have revealed that the benefits of weight loss associated with gastric banding far outweighs any discomfort related to surgery.
If you continue to experience long-term nerve pain and none of the treatments you’ve been practicing are helping at relieving pain, make an appointment with your health care provider as soon as possible. Your doctor may be able to recommend alternate treatments that can help with pain relief.
CarePoint Health Center for Bariatric Surgery offers a number of different weight-loss surgeries to help you meet your weight-loss goals, including sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery. To learn more about our bariatric surgery options, contact us at 201-795-8175 and register for our free seminar.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.