By Mary Ann Wilson, RN
Here are a few chair exercises that would be appropriate for upper extremity lymphedema. Exercises should be done while wearing compression bandages or properly fitting compression garments, if prescribed.
Perhaps the most important exercises are diaphragmatic breathing. Remember to inhale deeply and exhale fully and slowly. The movement of the diaphragm promotes the drainage of lymphatic fluid.
Work the proximal muscles first (muscles closest to the center of the body, i.e. shoulder, upper arm) and the distal muscles last (muscles farthest from the center of the body, i.e. forearms and fingers.
The movement of muscles, contracting and relaxing, acts as a pump and facilitates lymphatic flow.
1. Begin and end your exercise session with diaphragmatic breathing. (BELLY BREATHING).
2. Using arms, gently bring bent knee toward chest several times with a gentle pumping movement (as though you are bouncing the knee gently against the chest).
3. Neck rotations. With head and neck in good alignment over shoulders, turn head side to side, right to left. Then, drop ear toward shoulder, right to left.
4. Shoulder rolls. Roll shoulders forward—up—back—down.
5. Elbow bends. Touch right shoulder with right hand. Support right arm with left hand under right elbow. Fully extend right arm in front of body at shoulder level. Bring back to starting position. Perform four repetitions then repeat with left hand to left shoulder.
6. Wrist circles and finger pumps. Make a fist and rotate wrists clockwise. Relax hand for two seconds. Open and close fingers two times. Make a fist and rotate counter clockwise.
It’s important to have your physician’s or lymphedema therapist’s approval and guidance for any exercise program. This information is in no way a substitute for medical care.
Special thanks to Marie Cole, PT, Certified Lymphedema Specialist, for some of the above information.
For more lymphedema resources, contact:
National Lymphedema Network, 2211 Post Street, Suite 404, San Francisco, CA 94115-3427
Phone: 800-541-3259. www.lymphnet.org
Coping With Lymphedema by Joan Swirsky, RN, and Diane Sackett Nannery