At Platinum Physio, we support a great number of women who are undergoing cancer treatment and recovery. Through a combination of hands-on treatment and gym based exercise, we love encouraging people to stay physically active for life.
Here are some tips before embarking on an exercise program if you do have lymphoedema:
Lymphoedema precautions are important if your lymph nodes were removed and/or you had radiation to the axilla (armpit area).Women with lymphoedema may complain that their arm feels tight, heavy, cramped, or tingling. These symptoms can indicate that nerves are compressed due to a buildup of fluid. Consult with your medical provider to ensure that you are started on a rehabilitation program conducted by a lymphoedema specialist. The good news is that exercise including resistance training and aerobic conditioning is safe and beneficial for women with lymphoedema.
1. Consult with a medical provider who specialises in lymphoedema before you start an exercise program. Your lymphoedema should be stable – meaning no cellulitis or flare ups have occurred within the past few months.
2. Wear a properly fitting compression garment and gauntlet (glove piece) while exercising if recommended by your lymphoedema provider.
3. Gradually increase your exercise tolerance by starting slowly and progressively increasing the intensity of your resistance and cardio training. Start with very light weights such as ½ lb. to 1 lb. Take frequent breaks, and stop if your arm feels heavy, achy or tired.
4. Alternate upper/lower body flexibility and resistance training exercises
5. Avoid temperature extremes such as heat and cold
6. Pilates/Yoga: Pilates and Yoga are great exercise modalities for those women with lymphoedema due to their emphasis upon breathing. Exercises that bear ones weight on the affected arm such as planks, side planks, downward facing dog, long stretch, upward facing dog, and cobra should be avoided. Ask for modifications such as using a wall or table to gradually condition the arm for these exercises. Slowly add in new poses/exercises after you see how your body responds. Strap based resistance for the arms that is found in the Cadillac and Reformer should be limited and gradually increased in repetition. The exercises should be alternated between the arms and legs frequently.
7. Swimming is another great exercise for lymphoedema as it supports the weight of the arm. Make sure that if you are swimming laps, that the water should be between 20-30 degrees. Change strokes frequently when doing laps. No compression sleeve is necessary in the water!
8. Work with a trainer who is aware of the symptoms and precautions for women with lymphoedema and who can modify accordingly.
9. When working on your stomach, use a wedge or pillow to feel more comfortable in the chest and abdominal region. If this is too painful, try working on your side with a pillow under your head.
Our very own Gillian Buckley is one of the foremost Oncology Physiotherapists in Melbourne and has extensive experience in supporting physical recovery after cancer treatment. Our wonderful Physio Carlie Dean also has extensive training in cancer rehabilitation and runs Pinc Pilates classes which help to increase strength and fitness during treatment and recovery.
If you would like to know more about our range of lymphoedema treatments and exercise programs, please contact Reception on (03) 8554 0111.