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How to Do Arm Lymphedema Exercises

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Updated August 21, 2009

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Prepare for Arm Lymphedema Exercises
Arm Lymphedema

Arm Lymphedema

Illustration © Pam Stephan

After lymph node removal, you may experience arm lymphedema. Some extra fluid may build up in your hand or arm, causing them to swell. The idea behind arm exercise and lymphedema is that arm muscle contractions may help move lymph fluid back to veins in your armpit and neck, so it can rejoin your blood circulation. When the lymph fluid goes back into circulation, your swelling should go down.

These simple gentle exercises can help the proteins in lymph fluid to be reabsorbed, and your arm lymphedema symptoms to diminish or disappear. Be sure to discuss your exercise plans with your doctor - before you start.

If you have recently had surgery, wait until your surgical drains and sutures are out, before trying these exercises. Do these exercises gently - you're not body building here - and do not exercise to the point of pain. Always wear your compression sleeve on your affected arm while exercising. Stop exercising if your arm begins to swell or turn red.

Dress in loose, comfortable clothing - style is not important for these exercises. Warm your affected arm and hand before starting to exercise - take a shower, tub soak, or use a warm compress for about 20 minutes. Be regular about doing your arm lymphedema exercises. This will aid your recovery and give you the best results.

Here's what you need on hand to get started:

  • A set of 1 pound free weights
  • Your compression sleeve
  • A small flexible ball
  • A hard chair to sit on
  • An area big enough to lay down on
  • Optional: A pair of walking poles: Fitness, Nordic, or Exerstriding poles

Ready? Let's start with some Seated Exercises.

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