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How to Do Arm Lymphedema Exercises


Updated August 21, 2009

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Shoulder Abduction - Standing Exercise
Shoulder Abduction

Shoulder Abduction

Illustration © Pam Stephan

Shoulder abduction means to move your shoulder and arms away from the midline or center of your body. This is the opposite of shoulder adduction, moving your arms in towards the your center. Holding a light free weight while doing the shoulder abduction helps put some gentle pressure on your axillary lymph node area, and may help your excess lymph fluid to drain.

You can do the shoulder abduction exercise with both arms. You will feel muscles in your shoulders and arms as well as your shoulderblade working as you do the shoulder flexion. Controlled, gentle muscle movement should help excess lymph fluid move back into circulation and help you avoid arm lymphedema.

Shoulder Abduction - Standing Exercise

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

  1. Stand with good posture, arms at your sides. Hold a one-pound free weight in each hand, palms facing forward.
  2. Slowly raise both arms out to your sides, using a gentle controlled motion. When your arms are not quite overhead, pause and hold this position for six counts.
  3. Now slowly lower your arms - don't drop your arms, but use a controlled motion - until your hands are back beside your body. Rest.
  4. Repeat the shoulder abduction 10 times.

When your arms feel tired or if they start to swell, stop and rest. You will gradually build up enough strength and stamina to do this exercise without stopping. Try using heavier weights as you feel comfortable.

Last Exercise: Pole Walking - Standing Exercise

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