It is extremely discouraging to realize that many of those who have gone through treatment and can be at risk for lymphedema are not informed about it. It is a prevalent side effect of conventional treatment and must be addressed.
So what is lymphadema? As said by the renowned Cancer Exercise Specialist Diana Sadtler, unlike our heart, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to transport the lymph fluid, which travels in one direction throughout the body. When fluid is not moving or “pumping”, lymph fluid builds up in the area in which the lymph nodes were removed or radiated causing swelling, disfiguration of the limb and general discomfort. Unfortunately those who have gone through this are at risk for lymphedema for the rest of their lives. If not dealt with, lymphedema occurs in stages and is irreversible at a particular stage after which it can also be life threatening.
Therefore to prevent toxic build up and swelling, the lymphatic system depends on physical movement to squeeze the fluid through the entire body for proper drainage. Activities such as yoga, weight training, aerobic activity, group fitness class, biking, hiking, just to name a few, increases your heart rate which increases the movement of blood. The increased blood movement acts as the “pump” and moves lymph fluid throughout the body resulting in decreased swelling.
Check with your doctor before starting any exercise program. It’s imperative to seek out a qualified professional who has worked with cancer patients for an exercise program specific to your needs. Other ways to stimulate the lymphatic system include gentle massage, compression bandages, pumps or garments.
- Optimal lymphatic function
- Mobility of muscles, joints and connective tissue
- Increased flexibility
- Increased muscle strength
- Increased range of motion at the joints close to affected area
- Increased functional movement
- Improves quality of life
- Improves emotional health
A source for finding lymphatic drainage garments can be found in the “For Women” section of the CARER program. Moreover there are a series of lymphatic drainage exercises provided in the program which can be done on a daily basis. You can download the lymphadema workout sheet from move to health section of the CARER program and follow the instructions.