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Best exercises to help relieve lymphedema


Did you get lymph nodes – swelling and fluid buildup – as a result of breast cancer or its treatments, or after removing your lymph nodes? A few simple movements can help.

Your mother’s generation may not have known it. Experts have warned against exercising the upper body after breast surgery. But now they know that exercise is more likely to combat breast cancer-related lymphedema than to aggravate it.

Why? “Exercise stimulates the lymphatic system,” says Todd Lane, occupational therapist and certified lymphoedema therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. An exercise routine can restore the normal range of motion and help build strength and endurance.

Ask your oncologist to refer you to a certified lymphoedema therapist who can create a personalized exercise routine based on your diagnosis and symptoms.

And try these seven exercises that Lane suggests. Start slow and do more repetitions as you get stronger.

1. Sit on a chair with feet together and hands in your lap.

2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep your elbows slightly bent while slowly lifting your arms over your head.

Bend slightly with your hands and arms above your waist and lean to the right.

4. Hold for 10 seconds.

5. Return to a straight sitting position and then bend to the left.

6. Repeat 10 times on each side.

1. Stand against a wall with your toes about 6 inches from the wall.

2. Place both palms against the wall at chest height and “crawl” your fingers slowly against the wall and reach as high as possible. Keep your head straight, your eyes forward and your back straight.

3. Slide your fingers back against the wall to the starting position.

4. Repeat 10 times.

5. With each workout, strive to reach higher than the previous time.

Stand with your affected side parallel to the wall at a distance of 2 feet between the outer edge of your foot and the wall.

With your arm bent around the elbow and bicep parallel to the floor, place your palm flat against the wall with your fingers toward the ceiling.

3. Slowly “crawl” your fingers against the wall and reach as high as possible. Keep your head straight, your eyes forward, hips square and back straight.

4. Slip your fingers back to the starting position.

5. Repeat 10 times. (If both sides are affected, repeat on the opposite side.)

6. Aim with each workout to be higher than the previous time.

Lie on your back on the floor with your arms at your sides, palms facing up.

2. Without raising your arms, move your arms towards your head (like making a snow angel). Expect to feel a soft stretch, but not pain.

3. Try to touch your hands above your head. Hold for 3 seconds.

4. Move your arms back to the starting position.

5. Repeat 10 times.

6. Aim with each workout to be higher than the previous time. As you build strength and improve range of motion, consider adding light weights.

Stand with arms bent at the elbows, biceps parallel to the floor and palms facing each other.

2. Slowly extend your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pressing your fingertips to the ceiling.

3. Try to stretch your arms as completely as possible.

4. Return to the starting position.

5. Repeat 10 times.

6. Aim with each workout to be higher than the previous time. As you build strength and improve range of motion, consider adding light weights.

1. As on your back with your knees bent, feet shoulder width apart and arms outstretched to your sides, palms facing up.

2. Keeping your arms straight, slowly raise both arms to the ceiling and bring your palms together.

3. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

4. Repeat 10 times.

5. As you build strength and improve range of motion, consider adding light weights.

1. Holding one walking stick in each hand, take a step forward with your right foot and extend your left arm forward until your hand is in the waist. The pole in your left hand should hit the ground at the same time as your right foot.

2. Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Keep your back straight and continue, alternating feet and poles.

4. Start with a 10-minute run and work out after 30-minute sessions.



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