What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling in one, or both, of your arms and legs that is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system. Lymphedema often occurs from cancer treatments when the lymph nodes are damaged or removed.

What are ways to manage lymphedema?

Small repetitive movements that allow a pumping action in the muscles affected help manage the swelling and pain of lymphedema.
Elastic compression garments wrapped around the affected areas and massage treatment also helps.

Arm Exercises: Can be done sitting or standing.

  • Ball Squeeze: Lightly hold an exercise ball in the palm of your hand and hold your arm above your heart. Squeeze the balls tightly for three seconds and then release. Do five to seven repetitions.
  • Elbow Flexion: One-pound free weight in each hand, palms facing up and arms down. Slowly bend your elbows toward your chest until the forearms are halfway up. Hold this position for five seconds and then slowly lower arms. Repeat ten times.
  • Shoulder Flexion: One-pound free weight in each hand, palms facing your body. Slowly raise arms over your head and hold position for five seconds. Do not swing your arms as you slowly raise and lower. Repeat ten times.

Leg Exercises: Can be done while lying down on your back.

  • Hip Flexion: Bring one knee up to your chest – as close as you can easily manage – and back down. Repeat ten times.
  • Knee Flexion: Bend your knee and slide your heel up toward your hip. Then slide back down. Repeat ten times.
  • Ankle Pumps: Flex your toes toward you as far as possible and then point them away from you as far as possible. Repeat ten times.
  • Ankle Circles: Turn your ankle in a clockwise direction and then move in the opposite direction. Repeat ten times.

Before starting these exercises to help manage lymphedema, consult with your OB/GYN or therapist. They can best guide you through proper care and management.