If you’ve gone through breast cancer treatment, you may be concerned about the risk of lymphedema, the painful swelling that can affect the hands or upper body. Breast cancer treatment, as well as treatment for other cancers, often damages lymph nodes, and the damaged or removed lymph nodes can no longer properly drain the lymph fluid as it flushes toxins from your body. The buildup of lymph fluid causes swelling, or lymphedema.
Lymphdema is one of the most common complications of breast cancer treatment, and the American Journal of Clinical Oncology estimates that 15 to 46 percent of breast cancer patients will experience it. (Get the full story on breast cancer and lymphedema here.)
The pain and swelling that lymphedema causes can be so severe that it’s hard to leave the house or even move around. It may cause skin irritation and tightness, a feeling of heaviness in the affected limbs, and decreased flexibility and mobility in the joints near the affected area. Your clothes may not fit despite not having gained weight.
But you can fight symptoms and reduce risk of lymphedema through exercise. Exercise promotes healthy circulation, helps move lymph fluid through the body, and improves mobility and flexibility. The physical movement of the muscles helps to pump the lymph fluid through so that it can’t pool and cause swelling.
Knowing what exercises to do can be tough, because the risk of lymphedema makes it inadvisable to put lots of pressure on the upper body. You don’t want to overstress the body as that can induce swelling—exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
This video, produced by Breast Cancer Haven introduces a series of 10 gentle moves for lymphedema relief and prevention. Join the ladies and get healthy together!
The exercises presented in the video are easy (we promise!), and you can do them anywhere and pretty much anytime. These calming exercises are designed not to overstress the joints while still helping promote lymph drainage and joint flexibility. Start or end your day with this relaxing routine to soothe your body and calm your mind. Stay healthy, friends!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.