Swimming and lymphedema
Swim to lessen lymphedema in the legs…
Swimming is the best exercise to reduce swelling, I’ve been telling people with leg lymphedema for years. Why is swimming the best form of exercise?
One, because your leg is below your torso and you are not vertical when you swim. Similar to when you elevate or lie down to reduce swelling in your leg.
Two: Your body fluids circulate when you swim. Your body’s fluids are being propelled around by the force produced by the muscles and limb movement. The fluids in your leg are being forced out of your leg by the kicks you make while swimming. When you swim, your blood and lymphatic fluid move more quickly than when you sit or lie down.
Three, when in a pool, the water itself offers a light compression. Although it is gentler than compression stockings, it can still be useful when you stand in the pool between strokes. Even if you can’t swim, standing in the water and extending your leg can be beneficial.
Fourth, swimming has no negative effects. This means that, unlike when walking or running, your foot does not contact the ground with each step. Because of the constant impact and pounding as well as gravity, walking and running actually make leg lymphedema worse. They do, in fact, aid in circulation to a small extent, but the impact causes the fluids to pack into the leg rather than force them out. In a vertical position, your body, fluids flow downward. Compared to any other aerobic activity, swimming is extremely gentle and helpful for those of us with leg lymphedema.
Since my 1991 cancer surgery, I’ve had to deal with leg lymphedema. I was a physical therapist, a fitness trainer, and a gymnastics coach at the time. I was familiar with how the body worked.
My right thigh contained malignant melanoma. Following my cancer surgery, numerous medical professionals predicted that I would spend the rest of my life in bed. Only the surgery could have kept me alive. If it wasn’t already too late, that is. The doctor was uncertain as to whether the cancer had already spread to my lymph nodes and throughout my body. It would have been too late had it done so. I had no idea how long I had to live before the surgery or if I would spend the rest of my life in bed.
During the surgery, the doctors removed the lymph nodes and the cancerous tumor from my groin area. Multiple hours were spent on two surgeries together. My leg was as wide as my waist right after the procedure. I still had a ways to go before I could shrink the tree trunk to normal size. My leg was permanently altered, but my life was saved. My leg had to be reduced to almost normal size, which took almost a year. Because I am so disciplined, I have kept my leg lymphedema extremely well under control.
Here are some quick ideas for reducing the swelling… elevate, compression, circulation/light exercise, and a very healthy diet of various fruits and vegetables – that’s the secret to reducing the swelling and keeping it down. eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Avoid fast food, junk food, alcohol, soda, and other unhealthy foods. Also, avoid processed foods.
I majored in physical therapy in college, and I’ve been a CSCS for a long time. I am aware of how to stay healthy and get well after getting sick or hurt. My leg lymphedema has been easier to maintain thanks to my knowledge, but you can do it too.
What gave me the idea for this today? In order to better manage my lymphedema, I spend the entire winter wishing I had access to a pool. I purchased a pool pass this week when the pool opened. On days off from work, there won’t be much swelling, and my leg will continue to feel and look good. YAY!
My leg felt and looked fantastic after my first swim of the summer yesterday. It feels good to be elevating today. I’m so excited to attend my ballroom dance social this evening!