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Did you get lymphedema — swelling and fluid buildup — because of breast cancer or its treatments, or after having lymph nodes taken out? Some simple movements may help.

Your mom’s generation might not have known this. Experts used to warn against upper body exercise after breast surgery. But now they know that exercise is more likely to help curb breast cancer-related lymphedema than worsen it.

Why? “Exercise stimulates the lymphatic system,” says Todd Lane, an occupational therapist and certified lymphedema therapist at Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “An exercise routine can restore normal range of motion and help build strength and endurance.”

Ask your oncologist to refer you to a certified lymphedema therapist who can make a personalized exercise routine based on your diagnosis and symptoms.

And try these seven exercises that Lane suggests. Start slowly and do more reps as you get stronger.

1. Sit in a chair with feet together and hands in your lap.

2. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and, keeping your elbows slightly bent, slowly lift your arms over your head.

3. With your hands clasped and arms overhead, gently bend at the waist, leaning to the right.

4. Hold for 10 seconds.

5. Return to a straight seated position, then bend to the left.

6. Repeat 10 times on each side.

1. Stand facing a wall with your toes about 6 inches from the wall.

2. Place both palms against the wall at chest height and slowly “crawl” your fingers up the wall, reaching as high as possible. Keep your head level, eyes facing forward, and your back straight.

3. Crawl your fingers back down the wall to the starting position.

4. Repeat 10 times.

5. With each exercise session, aim to reach higher than the last time.

1. Stand with your affected side parallel to the wall with 2 feet of space between the outer edge of your foot and the wall.

2. With your arm bent at the elbow and bicep parallel to the floor, place your palm flat on the wall with fingers pointed toward the ceiling.

3. Slowly “crawl” your fingers up the wall, reaching as high as possible. Keep your head level, eyes facing forward, hips squared, and back straight.

4. Crawl your fingers back to the starting position.

5. Repeat 10 times. (If both sides are affected, repeat on the opposite side.)

6. With each exercise session, aim to reach higher than the last time.

1. Lie on your back on the floor with your arms at your sides, palms facing up.

2. Without raising your arms, slide your arms toward your head (like making a snow angel). Expect to feel a gentle stretch but not pain.

3. Aim to touch your hands above your head. Hold for 3 seconds.

4. Slide your arms back toward the starting position.

5. Repeat 10 times.

6. With each exercise session, aim to reach higher than the last time. As you build strength and improve range of motion, consider adding light weights.

1. Stand with arms bent at the elbows, biceps parallel to the floor, and palms facing each other.

2. Slowly extend your arms, squeezing your shoulder blades together and pushing your fingertips toward the ceiling.

3. Aim to extend your arms as fully as possible.

4. Return to starting position.

5. Repeat 10 times.

6. With each exercise session, aim to reach higher than the last time. As you build strength and improve range of motion, consider adding light weights.

1. Like on your back with your knees bent, feet shoulder width apart, and arms extended out to your sides, palms facing up.

2. Keeping your arms straight, slowly raise both arms toward the ceiling, bringing your palms together.

3. Slowly lower your arms back to the starting position.

4. Repeat 10 times.

5. As you build strength and improve range of motion, consider adding light weights.

1. Holding one walking pole in each hand, take a step forward with your right foot and extend your left arm forward until your hand is waist high. The pole in your left hand should hit the ground at the same time as your right foot.

2. Repeat on the opposite side.

3. Keep your back straight and continue walking, alternating feet and poles.

4. Start with a 10-minute walk and work toward 30-minute sessions.

 

 

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