Advice on exercise fits into two categories - general exercise and specific lymphatic exercises.
Until recently it was thought that people with lymphoedema could not undertake strenuous exercise but research has shown that weight lifting and aerobic exercise did not make women with breast cancer more likely to develop lymphoedema or make lymphoedema worse for those with the condition. However exercise should be gentle in the first year to eighteen months after surgery. Some people think that if some exercise is good then more must be better. This may not be the case. Exercise should be reduced if it causes heaviness, aching or swelling. A gentle build up is important.
Daily exercise as tolerated is helpful. The best form of exercise is exercise you enjoy doing. Try walking, swimming, cycling, or rowing. Some tips are:
Specific Lymphatic Exercises
Lymphatic exercises are:
In a study by Casley-Smith & Casley-Smith, (1997) people who did lymphatic exercises daily for 3 months before starting massage treatment had less of a reduction from massage. It is thought that the exercises had reduced the limb size before the other treatment started.
Exercises are available from Lymphoedema Therapists. Michael Mason has excellent handbooks.
The following exercise programmes are especially helpful for lymphoedema:
Pinc and Steel Exercise programme (available in New Zealand)
Healthy Steps:The Lebed Method (available in Wellington, NZ - contact Di Graham for information)
Casting for Recovery (available in New Zealand)
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