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Healthy Aging Tips from Sit and Be Fit's Mary Ann Wilson RN
Sit and Be Fit TV host, Mary Ann Wilson RN

Upper Body Exercises for Lymphedema

By Mary Ann Wilson, RN

In this post, I would like to share some upper body exercises for lymphedema. Before you get started, make sure your physician or lymphedema therapist has approved you for exercise. Follow their guidelines and precautions.

The exercises presented here should be done while wearing compression bandages, or properly fitting compression garments, if prescribed. Keep in mind, the information presented in this blog is in no way a substitute for medical care. 

General Exercise Guidelines for Lymphedema

Begin by working the proximal muscles first. Proximal muscles are those closest to the center of the body, for example muscles of the shoulder and upper arm. Exercise the distal muscles last. These are the muscles farthest from the center of the body, for example muscles of the forearms and fingers.

Keep in mind, the movement of muscles when they contract and relax act as a pump and facilitate lymphatic flow. 

Sit and Be Fit Upper Body Exercises for Lymphedema

1. Breathing – Begin and end your exercise session with the most important exercise, diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing. Remember to inhale deeply and exhale fully and slowly. The movement of the diaphragm promotes the drainage of lymphatic fluid.

2. Knee Pumps – 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, and down. Repeat several times. Similarly, reverse the direction of the rolls.

5. Elbow Bends – Touch the right shoulder with right hand. Support right arm with left hand under right elbow. Fully extend right arm in front of the body at shoulder level. Bring the arm 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 the wrists clockwise. Relax the hands for two seconds. Open and close fingers two times. Make a fist and rotate the wrists counter clockwise.

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.

Also Recommended:
Coping With Lymphedema by Joan Swirsky, RN, and Diane Sackett Nannery

Related Blogs:


Lymphatic Self-Massage Exercises

Recommended DVDs:

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