Lymphedema After Mastectomy
Lymphedema is one of the most common complications after mastectomy. This happens in breast cancer surgeries that involved removal of the lymph nodes. When lymph nodes are removed, the lymph vessels that help in the transport of the lymph are also removed. This results in the disruption in the flow of the lymphatic fluid. Hence, women who undergo mastectomy and are at risk for lymphedema are advised to perform certain lymphedema exercises.
Lymphedema Exercises to Reduce Arm Swelling
Exercise helps in managing lymphedema as it causes the muscles to contract, pushing the lymphatic fluid into the lymph vessels. Doctors used to be worried with these exercises as they thought that they can worsen the lymphedema. But there isn’t sufficient evidence supporting this.
Before you try any lymphedema exercise, it’s best to consult your doctor first. He/she may be able to provide you with some exercise tips depending on his/her assessment on your fitness level and overall health condition.
Like other workout routines, it’s important to warm up before you start any lymphedema exercise. You may begin with deep breathing exercises to help clear the lymphatic system in your chest and to help you relax.
If you’re wearing compression sleeves, you can wear them while doing these exercises. Only do the number of reps that you’re comfortable with; avoid pushing yourself too much.
The following are examples of lymphedema exercise you can try to reduce the swelling of your arms after mastectomy:
With your back and neck straight and arm elevated, squeeze the ball as tight as you can for about 3 seconds and then release. Repeat for 5 to 7 times.
If you don’t have a stress ball, the fist clenching exercise is a good alternative.
You can do it by making a fist and opening it as wide as you can. Do 10 reps.
Start by lying down on your back. Holding light weights (you can do it with a 1-lb weight), slowly raise your arms above your body then slowly lowering them down towards your chest. When you’re lowering your arms, make sure that you’re bending your elbows at 90 degrees. Rest for a few seconds then repeat.
This is an exercise you can do while standing. With a light weight in each hand, slowly raise both arms on your side but not overhead. Hold it for a few seconds before lowering them down. Repeat.
You can do this either when you’re sitting or standing.
Slowly rotate your shoulders forward as if you’re making big circles. Repeat the same movement in opposite direction.
Lymphedema exercise is best done when arm compression sleeves are worn. For comfortable and effective compression garments for lymphedema, you can check out Bioflect Therapy Garments. The company makes use of FIR therapy fabric that provides comfortable compression while improving local circulation.