Lymphedema and exercise

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Update Date 12/05/2020
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When it comes to lymphedema, it is safest to err on the side of caution since some recommendations are not backed by strong research. Here, we briefly describe the lymphatic system and focus on exercise precautions. Besides, it is important that you discuss the list of precautions with your surgeon or doctor who can help decide which tips are most optimal, depending on whether you are at high or low risk for lymphedema.

How does Lymph work?

Lymph channels or vessels branch out through the body. Channels in your arms carry the watery fluid called lymph to larger channels in the underarm. These channels ultimately feed into the central circulatory system so that lymph fluid can join the bloodstream. When surgery or radiation alters underarm lymph channels, there may not be enough remaining channels to allow easy drainage of lymph. Fluid backs up and accumulates in the affected arm and hand and, less often, in the trunk of the body.

How does exercise affects to Lymphedema?

Exercise has benefits and drawbacks as far as lymphedema is concerned. Generally, preferable exercise consists of cardio (aerobic exercise), strength training and flexibility training. When you exercise, muscles squeeze and relax in a milking motion that moves lymph fluid along. The calories pared off by exercise may help you lose unwanted pounds, a particular boon for overweight women because obesity is thought to raise the risk for lymphedema. Even though exercise may not get you back the damaged cells, it can prevent future risks. Yet vigorous exercise and arm movements may increase the rate of blood flow and lymph production to the point where it overwhelms remaining lymph channels. Therefore, getting help from therapist or doctor is preferable to design the most optimal exercise pattern.

Consulting with your doctor before exercise

In order to maximize the benefit of lymphedema exercise, firstly you need to be guided by a certified physical medicine doctor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, nurse, massage therapist, or anther provider. Otherwise, you could face possible risk or impairment.

Secondly, depending on each person’s shape and health, it is essential to wisely choose the desirable exercise method (heavy weights or light weights for strength training) to avoid any unwanted pain and damage. Furthermore, it is recommended that you start at a slow pace for the body to adjust to the exercise and take a break in between each session. Moreover, you should never neglect the lower body exercises and only focus on those of the upper body since they can influence the upper body. However, not all exercises have a positive effect on the body, so further consultation from your therapist is needed.

Finally, if finance poses as a hindrance in finding a certified therapist in lymphedema, you could run for other alternatives like physical therapist or health care provider.  

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Read also:

    Sources

    Lymphedema and Exercise. http://www.breastcancer.org/treatment/lymphedema/exercise. Accessed August 20, 2016.

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