I think a lot of us feel helpless against our lymphedema. Treating it is still fairly new in the medical community and for some of us, what they offer just doesn’t work well. I'm one of the us. Since developing lymphedema in 2009, I’ve worked to understand how my lymphatic system functions, what happens when it’s damaged and through a lot of trial and error, figured out ways I can help keep the symptoms of my lymphedema at bay. There is a lot we can do!
Before my breast cancer treatments, my lymphatic system was doing its job pretty well. From having nodes removed and a number of surgeries, my lymphatic system was damaged but, that doesn’t mean it stopped working all together. For me, by stimulating my lymphatic system every day, I’m able to manage the symptoms of my lymphedema. I get rid of the heavy achy feeling in my body, clear my brain fog, and reduce my swelling.
Similar to the principles of manual lymphatic drainage massage (MLD), my goal is to work with my superficial lymphatic system to help move excess fluid trapped in my tissues. To to this, I do self care activities that create muscle contractions or mimic them. It’s muscle contractions that propel lymph fluid through my lymphatic system (clearing pathways) and get the capillaries within my tissues to “suck in” more fluid.
Ways I stimulate my lymphatic system:
Here is a list of the self care I do to help my lymphatic system and lymphedema. I hope this helps you start thinking about what might help you
When I very first get up, I put on all my Active Massage garments. Check out the garments www.solideamedical.com.
I swim pretty much every day (I wear my Active Massage arm bands and socks when I swim). Water has natural compression which really helps get the lymphatic system moving. I do a combo of crawl stroke and breast stroke. I do about 22 laps in total but very relaxed. Then I walk the length of the pool. I stretch in the water, do about 5 deep dives as far down as I can go and finish it off with 5 deep relaxing breathes while relaxing in the water. Here is a free video of my water routine solideamedical.com/swimming-video.
Other things I do to help which I demonstrate in FB Live videos. I'll add a link to the library of these at the end of this post:
1. Full body light strength workouts
3. Full Body Rolling
5. Deep Belly Breaths
Also, everyday when I shower, I use my exfoliating sponge to help stimulate my lymph system and use a combo of hair pulling and a rubber scalp massager to help with the brain fog my lymphedema creates. Always start at your core (tummy) and work outward to the ends of your limb.
In terms of food, this is always a work in progress. Overall, I try to stick to an anti inflammatory diet. I try to stay away from processed foods and eat organic, grass fed and all that junk. I do like juicing as well as smoothies.
Again, I'm not a doctor or health care professional, like you, I deal with lymphedema and am sharing what I have found has helped me. Please talk with your healthcare provider, if possible, before making any changes to your compression or self care regiment.
I hope this helps!