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How to Do Arm Lymphedema Exercises

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Updated August 21, 2009

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Ball Squeeze - Seated Exercise
Ball Squeeze Exercise

Ball Squeeze Exercise

Illustration © Pam Stephan

Arm lymphedema can happen after lymph nodes are removed during breast cancer surgery. Gentle exercise can help reduce swelling caused by lymphedema. Here's how to do the ball squeeze exercise.

You can do the ball squeeze exercise with your surgery-side arm, as well as with your unaffected arm. Use a flexible ball that is a bit larger than your palm. Your exercise ball should not be heavy and should offer some resistance to your grip. The proper ball will spring back into shape when you release it, but will require some pressure to squeeze it. You will feel muscles in your fingers, lower and upper arm working as you do the ball squeeze. This muscle movement should help move excess lymph fluid back into circulation and help you avoid swelling.

Ball Squeeze - Seated Exercise

Remember: Always wear your compression sleeve on your affected arm during exercise.

  1. Sit or stand with good posture - keep your back and neck straight and your shoulders relaxed. Grasp your exercise ball lightly between your palm and fingers. Extend your arm in front of you, holding your arm higher than your heart.
  2. While keeping your arm elevated, squeeze the ball with your fingers as tightly as you can. Hold the squeeze for about 3 seconds, then release.

Repeat the ball squeeze exercise 5 to 7 times. If your arm tires quickly, take breaks. You will gradually build up enough strength and stamina to do the ball squeeze several times without resting.

Next Exercise: Elbow Flexion - another seated exercise

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