Lymphedema and Exercise

      Every time we get a new patient, we explain to them that dealing with Lymphedema requires a multi pronged treatment plan. Today, we are going to discuss the Exercise option. In the years that we have provided Lymphedema Compression Pumps, we have met multiple patients that let their limbs atrophy. This happens because they warned not use the limb that has Lymphedema, and the patient takes that to the extreme. After several years the limb loses all muscle tone, and becomes useless. 
      If you have upper extremity Lymphedema, it is important to continue use the arm for daily activities. Brushing your teeth, your hair, cooking, cleaning etc. You should avoid heavy weights for the affected arm. We always tell patients that if you are grabbing a bag of groceries, use the affected arm for the bread and chips, and grab the canned goods and milk with the unaffected arm. 
     Some therapist believe that Resistance training is the best exercise or upper extremity edema. For lower extremity edema, I recommend the swimming pool. Now don’t panic, I don’t mean you need to swim laps. Go to the lap pool which is only three feet deep, and you walk in the water. So, no swimming is necessary. The water provides buoyancy and takes stress off your knees and hips. It also gives you a resistance workout walking through the water. The best part is the water provides compression therapy while you are in it. When we first started in compression therapy we were told by the best Vascular Surgeons at Tuffs University that the optimum pressure for a pump was between 40-50 mmhg. Standing in water that is three deeps provides approximately 50 mmhg compression at your feet. So you get compression, and exercise walking in a lap pool.