Why Is My Right Arm Bigger Than My
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Last updated July 17, 2017, originally published October 6, 2013
By Louise Carr,  Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

[Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of
Doctors and
Registered Nurses and other members of our Editorial Board.]

Symmetrical features are the ideal in the quest for the body
beautiful but being perfectly balanced means more than
having a pretty face. One day you discover that your right
arm is bigger than your left. What happened and why is it
different in size? Is there anything you can do to reverse
the lopsided look? Is having a bigger right arm dangerous
or bad for your health?  Is it swelling and, if so, what
causes your right arm to swell?

Causes of a Bigger Right Arm

Anything that causes your arms to swell could be the
reason your right arm is bigger than your left. Arthritis
causes swelling along with joint pain and stiffness, and
sometimes your arms can look bigger due to the fluid build-

Hormonal changes also can cause swelling in the arms and

However, one of the most common reasons for women
having a bigger right arm is "lymphedema".  

What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a swollen limb – usually an arm – that
occurs following cancer and cancer treatment, in particular,
breast cancer. Lyphedema affects 3 million people in the
US, according to a 2012 study led by Dr. Mei R. Fu of New
York University College of Nursing.

Lymphedema happens because the lymph nodes in the
armpit have been removed or blocked. Your lymph nodes
are an important part of the lymphatic system which helps
to remove impurities from your body’s tissues.

When your lymph nodes are removed or blocked the flow
of lymph fluid is disrupted. This causes an imbalance in the
lymphatic drainage system – more fluid is traveling into the
arm than can be drained out. The result is a build-up of
fluid in the soft tissues and a swollen – and larger – right
(or left) arm.  

Along with a swollen arm you can experience a tight feeling
in the skin, difficulty moving the limb, and a heaviness in
the arm. When your right arm is bigger than your left
because of lymphedema, your daily life begins to be
affected and you can stop enjoying hobbies and everyday

The sight of a bigger right arm is also difficult to bear,
especially when it comes along with other physical changes
due to cancer surgery.  

Who Suffers from a Bigger Right Arm?

Bodybuilders and gym enthusiasts may occasionally see a
difference in the size of their arms after focusing too hard
on that side of the body.

Your arms and hands commonly swell when you are
pregnant, having your period or are suffering from other
hormonal changes.  

As for cancer survivors, scientists are not completely sure
how many people develop lymphedema after breast cancer
because adequate data is lacking. A 2007 report from Ohio
State University Comprehensive Cancer Center estimates
the incidence of a swollen arm as ranging from 8 percent to
56 percent of cancer sufferers. Research also reports that a
swollen right arm due to lymphedema can occur any time
within days of treatment for cancer and up to 30 years
after surgery (2007, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust,
London, UK) although 80 percent of people experience the
condition within three years of surgery, says a 2001 study
from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

Being overweight or obese, suffering slow healing of the
skin after surgery, or having scar tissue in the lymph ducts
raises the risk of suffering arm swelling.  

It is important not to ignore mild swelling and a slightly
bigger right arm after surgery because, if left untreated,
minor lymphedema can lead to debilitating lymphedema –
you could find yourself unable to use your arm.

Seek medical advice of course. But also educate yourself
about the following natural solutions to a larger right arm.  

Use Butcher's Broom After Breast Surgery to Prevent
Right Arm Swelling

A bigger right arm after breast cancer surgery is difficult to
handle both psychologically and physically. But a certain
herb can help.

Research shows that butcher’s broom herb can help lessen
swelling and bring the arm back down to size. Grown in
Europe, butcher's broom is a smallish, evergreen shrub
which butchers historically used to sweep an clean the
blocks of wood they used for chopping meat.

A 1996 study from Unité de Lymphologie, Hôpital Cognacq-
Jay, Paris, France looked at 57 women with lymphedema
and found a combination therapy of butcher’s broom with
the modified citrus bioflavonoid "trimethylhesperidin
chalcone" gave good results.

Bioflavanoids Help Treat A Bigger Right Arm

As mentioned, citrus bioflavonoids in supplement form may
be helpful for reducing the size of an arm that has swollen
due to lymphedema following breast cancer surgery.

A 1997 study by the Department of Nuclear Medicine,
Centre René Hugenin, Saint Cloud, France demonstrated
this effect. Be careful, however, not to try bioflavonoid
combinations containing tangeretin if you are taking
tamoxifen for breast cancer.  

Use Oxerutins to Treat Swollen Arm Due to Lymphedema

Oxerutins are a type of naturally occurring bioflavonoid
that have traditionally been used to treat varicose veins.

However, some research suggests oxerutins are also
helpful for treating chronic arm swelling caused by
lymphatic drainage system damage. A 1993 study by Taylor
HM, Rose KE, and Twycross RG and a 1995 study from
Mortimer PS, Badger C, Clarke I, et al demonstrated that
the formula helped treat chronic arm swelling resulting
from breast cancer treatment.  

Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins as a Treatment for
Swollen Right Arm

Oligomeric proanthocyanidins, otherwise known as OPCs,
are found in grape seed and pine bark. OPCs can help
recovery from surgery, including reducing the
postoperative symptoms of swollen arms following breast
cancer treatment. A 1989 study from the Association de
Lymphologie de Lange Francaise Hopital Saint-Louis, France
looked at 63 women with breast cancer and discovered
that 600mg of OPCs every day for six months reduced
symptoms of lymphedema.  

Massage Helps Ease Swelling of Lymphedema in a Bigger
Right Arm

Massage is an effective treatment if your right arm is bigger
than your left due to lymphatic problems, but it has to be
the right kind of massage.

A 2011 study by researchers at the University of Florence,
Italy demonstrated the type of massage technique
necessary for results --- manual lymph drainage that
stimulates the lymphatic vessels and helps drain excess
fluid from the tissues. Scientists tested the technique on 20
patients for five weeks and found massage produced
significant reductions in hand and arm volume.

Does Raising Your Arm Make it Smaller?

Many people wonder whether elevating your right arm will
reduce its size.

The short answer is "yes". Elevation is important when it
comes to reducing swelling – gravity helps the fluid drain
from your arm when it is raised above shoulder level.

However, not many of us can spend all day walking around
with our arms over our heads. A more practical solution is
to raise your arm and put it into a resting position when
you are sitting down, otherwise the muscle fatigue will
have the opposite result to what you’re looking for and
actually increase fluid.  

Exercise to Prevent a Swollen Arm Due to Lymphedema?

Be careful when it comes to exercise because when you use
resistance to work out it can result in excess fluid building
up in the tissue of the arm. However, some forms of
exercise may be beneficial, for example progressive
resistance exercise where you use steadily heavier weights.

Doctors Sara Cohen, O.T.R./L., C.L.T.-L.A.N.A., Saska
Thiadens, R.N. and Marisa Weiss, M.D. suggest swimming as
the ideal exercise to reduce swollen arms but only under
the consultation of your own medic.

Yoga, especially, has been found effective in treating
lymphedema following breast cancer surgery. Eight weeks
of yoga practice led to a significant reduction in swelling in
a study of 23 women . The study, led by Dr. Annette
Loudon of the University of Tasmania in Australia used a
particular form of yoga called Satyanabda yoga, which
emphasizes lymphatic drainage.

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Lymph massage can reduce
swelling in your right arm.