The lymphatic system relies on muscle pumping, joint movements, and other things to help it drain, such as exercise. The superficial lymphatics are positioned just underneath the skin. When exercising or moving, the muscles contract and relax against the skin. This increases lymphatic activity thereby helping to reduce swelling. Wearing a compression garment or bandages during exercise and movement provides increased resistance for the muscles to work against and can therefore improve the results.
Physical therapy exercise programs are tailored to the needs and abilities of the individual and his/her condition. The exercise program for lymphedema will aid the muscular system to move lymph fluid out of the affected area. Doing exercise, especially while wearing compression bandages or garments, is an effective way to reduce your lymphedema.
However, as not all exercise programs are suitable with lymphedema, you should always talk about your exercise plans with your lymphedema specialist before you start.
Here are a few things that you should keep in mind:
- Start slowly and increase slowly.
- Avoid overexertion – this can increase your lymphedema.
- Always implement a warm-up and cool-down.
- Avoid hot tubs, saunas, or steam rooms – these can increase your swelling.
- Stop your exercise when your lymphedema limb feels tired, uncomfortable, or aches.
- Recovery is important – rest and elevate your limbs at night.
- Always wear your compression garments during exercising. One exception is training in water because the water will act as a type of compression on your limb.