Lymphedema can develop months or years after cancer treatment and can be triggered by infection, repetitive motion, air travel, insect bites, vigorous massage or obesity.
Exercise stimulates changes in pressure from muscle contractions or deep breathing which enhances lymphatic flow.
Extensive research shows that in breast cancer survivors with lymphedema a slow progressive resistance training program had no significant effect on limb swelling and resulted in a decreased incidence of exacerbations of lymphedema, reduced symptoms, and increased strength
For breast cancer survivors lymphedema ranks high among serious concerns as it is chronic, progressive, and incurable. Lymphedema causes arm swelling and discomfort, considerably impairing arm function and effects daily activities.
In the past resistance training or weight lifting was not recommended for women with breast cancer related lymphedema. A program of controlled exercise through resistance training may increase the physical work capacity of the affected arm, thereby protecting it from injury sustained during common daily activities.
Lymphedema exercises enhances the efficacy of the muscle pump and promotes venous and lymphatic return. Exercise promotes lymph flow which reduces limb swelling.
Exercise is one of the most important components in both reducing breast cancer risk and promoting recovery. Exercise can minimize the side effects of cancer treatment, boost immune system, slow down muscle loss and maintain physical function and help survivors cope.