Exercise but Don’t Sweat It!

Lymph capillaries in the tissue spaces

Lymph capillaries in the tissue spaces (Photo credit: Wikipedia) if the limb becomes to hot more lymph will gather in the tissue causing it to swell. This in turn puts pressure on the whole system.

Exercise but don’t sweat it sounds a little crazy but when you have Lymphoedema this is the aim! Light exercise means light, not overdoing it but enough to move the lymph around the body but without creating more.

Exercise is important in the treatment of lymphedema because the movement of the muscles stimulates the flow of the lymph into the capillaries, unlike the blood, which flows due to the pumping of the heart. Wearing a compression garment during exercise also provides resistance to further stimulate the flow. However if the body gets to hot this causes excess lymph to be produced and leak into the tissues, causing a negative reaction, the limb will become tight and uncomfortable.

Taking it gently is not in my nature, I decided to get on an exercise bike and ride 5 km as fast as I could, well I paid the price for that one, with an unhappy leg! I really miss being able to do things like a run, bike ride or even a walk  on a very hot day, in Australia 40 degree days do not help. I used to love going to the beach but sun bathing is another no no! Over time I feel my leg loosing strength and me fitness.😕😕

Exercise is part of the daily routine in some form, walking and swimming I find the best. My favourite is to find a pool I can walk up and down in, as the natural pressure of the water acts as a compression garment and the limb remains cool. In Australia we also have classes called Encore, for those who have had breast cancer, to do water aerobics to help with Lymphoedema, also to help avoid it. I wish there were classes for those with other forms of Lymphoedema, not just as a form of exercise but to meet others and learn from each other, maybe this could be the next project! Just the activities of daily life will help to move the Lymph, sitting and standing in one spot for any length of time is not helpful.

When all the exercise is over and it is time to relax it is elevate, elevate, elevate!! Gravity will also help the lymph to travel away from swollen feet and ankles and encourage flow up the legs and into good lymph nodes. I also raise the end of the bed on a couple of paperback books to help lymph leave the legs during the night. Sometimes it is not possible to elevate the legs but I have a friend who has solved this by carrying a small folding stool with her everywhere, what a great idea! You know who you are!!!

What helps your Lymphoedema? What do you miss being able to do?

An aqua aerobics class.

An aqua aerobics class. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

12 thoughts on “Exercise but Don’t Sweat It!

    • Yes I have had Lymphatic drainage many times. I find it best when used with the complex bandaging for a few consecutive days or at very least to put compression garments straight on to i prove results. I do like it with Aromatherapy oils… Which oils would you recommend as being the best to use? . Also for in a bath which I find very soothing at end of day what is best to use?

  1. I don’t think bicyling is too helpful with lymphedema. It seems my leg/foot becomes more swollen from the downward pedaling. I walk on a treadmill for 30 minutes each morning and that seems to be not as hard on the leg. I, too, have done all of the routines. Lymph drainage manual massage, daily pumping (which I still do every day), compression hose. Never heard of aromatherapy being of any benefit except for relaxation. I was looking at bathing suits today and then had to remind myself that I am too embarassed of my leg/foot to wear one. Miss having freedom to wear whatever I like without thinking about my leg. Love your blog!

    • Yes the bike was a great urge to want to get fit and I did not think it out properly because gravity does not help… If I had thought maybe one of those laying down bikes would have been better!! I will try again but slow and gentle…A sarong around the costume then straight into the water helps!! I agree that the aromatherapy is about relaxation but that can just make you feel better….Oh well I may now have an exercise bike fit to hang clothes on!!! Some times it is the simple things that you take for granted that become impossible!!!

  2. It is possible to have hydrotherapy for your lymphoedema in Australia. Some private hospitals, including Mt Wilga, have programs for lymphoedema that incorporate exercise in their gym, along with a session in their pool. A program is developed for you and you are considered a Day Patient. So if you have private hospital insurance then you may be able to use that to pay for the treatment (minus your excess if you have to pay). Each fund has different requirements. To get into a program you would need to see one of the doctors who run the rehab units at the hospital, but the staff at the rehab unit could tell you who they are. I’ve been using the rehab unit at North Gosford Hospital. It’s a small unit but quite comprehensive. Apart from my excess I haven’t had to pay a cent. I was going twice per week for exercise/massage. I am now going once a week.

    My issue with not sweating is that I sweat from the moment I put on my stockings in the mornings. I sweat a lot in the gym. During summer I am not sure how I can avoid it. I long for Winter, that is for sure.

    • I go to mt Wilga for treatment but when bandaging and they do. Gym program. Also have five sessions via medicare for hydrotherapy at a pool near home via a physio… Otherwise i just take myself to a pool… Yes i much prefer winter as summer is a struggle!!!

      • When I am due for new garments I will go back to Mt Wilga (I’m only on my first set of stockings now). I am undecided if I will go for a week, or two. I responded very well to the massage and the bandaging.

        I was concerned about remaining compliant when I came home from my initial treatment at Mt Wilga. It was just too far to travel back there for weekly visits, and so I considered what was available in my area that I could use. I thought I’d have to come up with my own plan and use a few different practitioners – a gym at the local physio office, a massage therapist, and then find someone with a pool. I could see myself only picking and choosing what I was comfortable with, rather than what was best for me. Which is why I was pleased to find out about a local rehab unit that my health fund would totally pay for. The staff can see I am keen and that I am making progress, and I just shut my mind to how I look when I am red in the face and sweating. lol

        • It is amazing how we learn to adapt!! I only use Mt Wilga when I want to do the complex bandaging but now my health fund has decided I have to stay in the hospital to have it fully coverd… They changed from paying for day stay… That is Medibank private!!! Last time I stayed in the cottage which is self care but they will not pay for that anymore… So a hospital stay it will be in May!!! Ah well treat it as a rest!! … To continue to do the Hydrotherapy at home I will need to claim for physio…. Except that soon runs out too… Must check out the hospital where the pool is and see I my health fund will except day stay there.. War memorial in Waverly… MMMMMmmmmmm!!! Thinking on that one!!,

  3. Thanks for the heads up on Medibank Private….I was only staying in the cottage in December! They paid a lot stuff that the other funds didn’t pay, like weekend bandaging, so I can’t complain too much. If I have to be an inpatient then that will change what I decided to do about having a week of bandaging. Lots to consider!

    • Medibank private will cover everything including weekend bandaging if you stay in the hospital… Just not free to come and go but rooms nicer than cottage and own bathroom!! Nothing out of pocket for my cover… I will treat it as a little holiday !!!

  4. Hi Everyone: I have had left leg lymphedema for 7 years now. I exercise pretty hard with a full compression wrap on my leg. I wear compressions stockings 24/7 and a Solaris night garment on the leg (hot, hot, hot). It has taken me probably 6 years to build the muscle strength up slowly but surely in my left leg with working with a kinesiologist 2 times a week. Then I ride my bike with a compression stocking on other days of the week. I have terrible varicose veins, and Raynaud’s syndrome (venous spasm in temperature changes), so I think I was a bit of a “sitting duck” for lymphedema after having had cancer surgery. I also had “chubby” thighs at the time of the surgery and still tend to hold my body fat in that region of my body. BUT…I could not survive my time now without the slow and steady progress I have made over 6-7 years of working working working with my compression wrapping on twice a week and in the gym exercising, more than “light exercise”. I rest for at least an hour after every time I exercise. This is time consuming, but I must do that to aid lymph return. The other thing that makes a HUGE difference to my lymphatic return, is working with the “rip trainer” in the gym. This is a core muscle workout with a bar that you control the elastic tension on. I do some core twisting and lunges with it, and the combination of core muscle contraction/relaxation and deep breathing, gets the lymphatic collecting vessels in the mesentery contracting more, and thus pulling up the fluid from the lower extremities more efficiently. FOR ME, this “Rip trainer” changed my course, as it really solidified my core muscles, and gets drainage going. I am not recommending that anyone just go into a gym and find these things out on their own….BUT I am saying that a SLOW STEADY CONSISTENT effort with some guidance from a someone like a physiotherapist or kinesiologist who understands your personal issues will pay off with lymphedema. I also lost about 10 pounds of fat in the 7 years, and gained some muscle mass in my legs, my arms and my core. Muscle is your best friend when you have lost lymph nodes, or the channels are disconnected and lymphedema is your problem.
    So, do not discount a regular exercise regime that is a bit more than “light”…..I think we need more fitness with lymphedema, because the muscle mass needs to contract to move fluid. But work with someone wherever you can, and be consistent in your effort to work the muscle mass. PLUS….compression bandaging does a lot when you are working out, at least that is what I believe (even though it is hot). THERE IS A FINE BALANCE THAT EVERY PERSON NEEDS TO FIND! Personally, my leg is in decent shape, but it takes a lot of work. I get cellulitis about once a year, can wear regular clothing, except I have to wear a compression stocking every single day of my life. And when I get out of my routine, my leg swells more and gets more uncomfortable. But I think I have figured out the solution for me, and this is why I share all of this for you all to consider for yourselves. Love to you all!

    • Thank you for this.. It is great to hear how everyone manages their Lymphedema and I am glad to hear you have managed to control yours by working out in the gym… Etc. I know others who do this too with good results… Thanks..

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