MOVE YOUR BODY! MOVE YOUR LYMPH!
Can exercise benefit lymphedema? We know through research that exercise helps move lymphatic fluid through our lymph system. When we move our body, we move our lymph! The lymph system is designed to work with your muscles and circulatory system to remove waste and clean your body systems. Therefore, when you move those muscles, you’re enabling your lymph system to function at a higher level. Even simple actions like rocking your foot back and forth can help improve lymphatic flow. Do you enjoy rocking in a rocking chair or taking a stroll through the park? Even simple movement moves lymph. So yes, exercise does benefit those dealing with lymphedema.
EXERCISE FROM YOUR THERAPIST
Hopefully, going through therapy, you were given exercise as part of your treatment. Are you still doing those exercises? Lymphedema is a chronic condition unlike some types of physical therapy, where you might reach a point where the exercises are no longer necessary. Therefore the benefits of exercise never diminish. Lymphedema still cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Movement and exercise are part of that management. Are you in therapy for lymphedema at this time? Have you been given exercises to improve lymphatic flow in the affected area? Be sure to discuss the benefits of exercise with your lymphedema therapist and ask for suggestions as to what might work best for you.
GOOD OVERALL EXERCISES
Exercises prescribed by your physical therapist target specific areas affected by lymphedema. There are also many good overall exercises that you can participate in, as well. These exercises should include stretching for range of motion. Use strengthening exercises to improve muscle performance. Endurance exercises will enhance the efficiency of the heart, lungs, and muscles. All practices should incorporate good abdominal breathing, stimulating lymph flow, and drainage. Activities should be low-intensity, gradual, and pain-free.
Swimming, walking, rebounding, and gentle yoga are good places to start. Start these exercises at low levels and gradually increase in intensity and length of time. Pay attention to your body, and do not push yourself to the point of fatigue. Listen to your body! This is not a no-pain, no-gain type of regimen.
WEARING COMPRESSION GARMENTS WHILE EXERCISING
While exercising, it’s essential to wear your compression garments. However, some people can do water exercises without compression garments, as water acts like compression on the body. This is something you will have to determine for yourself. While in the water, does your body start to swell? Or does it maintain its size? If you see issues with swelling, you can use an older set of compression garments while exercising in water. Then wear your newer garments when you are finished.
Why is it essential to wear compression while exercising? Compression garments increase the efficiency of the muscles to move the fluid from the limb(s). Without the reduction, the increased circulation and increased production of lymph fluid can collect in the swollen areas.
As always, get your doctor or lymphedema therapist’s approval and guidance before you start an exercise program. If any exercise seems to cause problems or results in further swelling, STOP and seek professional advice immediately.
Sigvaris, one of my compression manufacturers, created a mini webinar to help you incorporate exercise into your treatment program.
YES, exercise does benefit lymphedema and improve your health in general! So therefore, take a stroll, stretch your body, go for a swim, or bounce on a rebounder. Whatever your choice, move that lymph, and don’t forget to have fun while you’re at it! Self-care is essential to management when dealing with a chronic disease like lymphedema.
For further information about lymphedema and exercise, check out these links:
Disclaimer – This blog is for general information purposes only. Furthermore, the information contained in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice – always consult a licensed healthcare professional for advice on your specific condition.