lymphedema Exercises : Benefits
Until recently, for those suffering from lymphedema, exercise was not advised. Doctors treating breast cancer patients specifically asked them to avoid carrying bags or lifting heavy objects with the affected arm for the fear of aggravating the lymphedema. However, with research it has been proved that light exercises performed during the course of treatment help with the decongestion of the limb. Besides, exercises improve the flexibility of the body and promote the circulation of body fluids, thus reducing the symptoms of lymphedema. They also help to strengthen the body and improve mobility in lymphedema patients.
Continued research is being conducted to find out what type of sports activity is suitable and how much of exercise is beneficial for the patient. Although the results have shown a positive trend, some issues need to be understood in this regard. The body’s response to the exercise may be slow due to the tissues being affected by the disease; hence, there may be a delayed reaction. The patient may not be able to perform the exercise to the full extent due to the physical condition. It is always better to start out on an exercise schedule after consultation with the doctor and under the guidance of a qualified trainer.
Recent studies have shown that lymphedema exercises in the form of light weight lifting can prove to be beneficial to women who have breast cancer surgery. They are able to cope better with the lymphedema treatment and overall their quality of life improves. However, there is one precaution to be taken by these women and that is to wear the compression garment at all times during the exercise schedule. The weight training program can be started with light weights and gradually increased in intensity, depending on how much the patient can perform comfortably.
Some precautions to be taken by lymphedema patients while performing any exercise are detailed below:
1.The importance of consulting the doctor before starting exercises cannot be stressed enough.
2.The affected limb must not be stressed or overused. Only exercise as much as you are able to. Stop at the first signs of distress or pain. Build up your strength gradually so that you can perform to the full extent.
3.Ensure that there is at least a 20 to 30 minute interval between the exercise and manual lymph drainage session.
4.Deep abdominal breathing before and after the exercise session is required. It helps the patient relax and also stimulates the flow of lymph.
5.As mentioned earlier, the compression garment must be worn during the exercise.
6.Keeping the body hydrated by drinking plenty of water while exercising is crucial to maintain fluid balance.
7.It is advisable to exercise moderately as over-exercising the affected limb might aggravate the condition. Very often, the reaction is delayed and you may not feel any discomfort while exercising, but the indications may show up after a few hours.
8.After the exercise session, you must rest and elevate the affected limb for at least 15 to 20 minutes.
There are numerous types of lymphedema exercises that can be taken up by the patient which are beneficial in maintaining the circulation of body fluids. Endurance exercises like walking, jogging, bicycling and aerobics promote deep breathing and help to increase the heart rate. Resistance training or strength training exercises are ideal for a lymphedema patient as the muscle contractions help in stimulating lymph flow. Dancing is considered to be an enjoyable activity as also playing golf. Yoga and stretching exercises help in stretching out the skin and the muscles so that the feeling of tightness is reduced. Any form of exercise that can be comfortably performed by the patient, can help to improve the flexibility and range of movement of the lymphedema affected limb.
Flickr: Lymphedema Art Journal