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How to Do Arm Lymphedema Exercises

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Updated August 21, 2009

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Pole Walking - Standing Exercise
Pole Walking

Pole Walking

Illustration © Pam Stephan

Pole walking, also called Nordic walking, uses your arms, shoulders, upper chest and back muscles. While you're getting a good cardio workout, all your major joints are exercised, and your muscles will get stretched and lengthened.

When done properly, pole walking is done while your arms are relaxed. Your shoulders will be working in a swinging motion, similar to shoulder flexion, but with a greater range of motion. This continuous motion should help excess lymph fluid move back into circulation and help you avoid arm lymphedema.

Pole Walking - Standing Exercise

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

Use a set of fitness walking poles that have a hand strap at the top. The poles should remain behind your stride and always point diagonally backwards as you walk. These will help you exercise your shoulders, assist with balance, and provide support for knee joints and leg muscles. Keep your shoulders relaxed and hold the poles near your body.

  1. Step forward with your right foot, and swing your left arm forward, up to waist height. Your left pole hits the ground just behind your right foot.
  2. Keep your torso upright, don't lean forward as you walk.
  3. Let your right arm straighten out behind you, forming a line that ends at the tip of your right pole. Roll your left foot from heel to toe as you walk, pushing off with your toe.
  4. Alternate feet and poles, while maintaining good posture as you pole walk.

For a complete explanation of pole walking technique and to learn more about the benefits of this exercise, visit the About.com Walking site.

Sources:

The Effect Of Gentle Arm Exercise And Deep Breathing On Secondary Arm Lymphedema. A.L. Moseley, N.B. Piller, C.J. Carati. Lymphology 38 (2005) 136-145.

Exercise and Arm Lymphedema. Karin Johansson, RPT, LT, Lymphedema Unit, Lund University Hospital, Dr. Med. Sci, Dep. of Health Science, Lund University, Sweden. Physiotherapy Theory Practice, 2009 Apr; 25(3):165-73.

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