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Move to keep things moving.

Exercise and deep breathing become a vital part of managing lymphoedema for both upper and lower lymphatic conditions. For lower lymphoedema, whatever method you use to draw the fluid up to the abdominal area you still need to get the fluid above the diaphragm into the thoracic duct for either recycling back into the venous system or elimination out of the body. For upper lymphoedema, interstitial fluid that is not taken up by the lymphatic system can via gravity move into the abdominal area where it can be drawn into the lymph vessels back up into the thoracic duct.

When fluid fills the abdominal cavity, you can feel very blotted, this is when deep breathing is required to get the fluid up past the diaphragm for either recycling or elimination.

The best type of exercise for lymphedema patients is swimming and other water exercises because the water provides tissue counter pressure on the skin lymphatics and the muscular exercise helps the lymph to flow.

Aqua Aerobics exercise has a double advantage. When you carry out vigorous exercise in the water that gets you breathing deeply thus drawing lymph fluid up into the thoracic duct, the action of the water against your body acts like a massage. Pushing your body through the water applies pressure against the skin along with the pressure of your muscles against the lymph vessels encourages lymph fluid to move through the lymphatic system.

If you prefer to do Aqua separately & not in a class, I recommend Aqua on Demand with Christine England which gives you expert training sessions privately. Great to get your heart & lymphatic system pumping as well as releasing endorphins to make you feel good.

Early intervention is essential to encourage the lymph fluid to move around the site of the blockage, which assists in creating new pathways to a site where the fluid can be processed. Ongoing management then ensures a continual flow.

Yoga is also excellent for lymphoedema, not just for muscle movement but also deep breathing and elevation of the limbs. Remember gravity is your friend as long as you use it that way.


For many people, deep breathing is no longer instinctive, instead, many of us have become shallow chest, or thoracic breathers – inhaling through our mouth, holding our breath and taking in less air.

We don’t breathe as nature designed it. Your breathing at any time falls in one of four patterns:

1 - Chest breathing, when breathing is primarily occurring in the chest:

2 - Belly breathing, when breathing is primarily occurring in the belly;

3 - Pelvic breathing, when breathing is more active in the pelvic area and

4 - Full breathing, when breathing involves the entire torso, from collarbones to the perineum.


You should breathe in through the nose for one count, hold for four counts, and exhale through the mouth for two counts. In other words, if you inhaled for five seconds, you’d hold for twenty, and exhale for ten. The numbers can change as long as the rations stays the same. Why exhale for twice as long as you inhale? That’s when you’re eliminating toxins via your lymphatic system. And holding for four times as long allows you to fully oxygenate the blood and activate your lymph system. You should breathe like this in three sessions of at least ten breaths per session.Use hashtags to describe what your post is about.

When you INHALE fully and exactly as nature designed it, you may experience the following:

As the breath goes downward, the chest expands, the rib cage elevates, diaphragm goes down and the belly comes out. The area between sternum, navel and perineum stretches. The upper back widens, and the lumbar arch slightly deepens.

When you EXHALE fully and completely as nature designed, you may experience the following:

Diaphragm relaxes, chest shrinks, ribcage sinks, the belly goes in, perineum to navel and navel to the sternum region stretches and the lumbar arch slightly flattens.

Some make a distinction between “belly breathing” and diaphragm breathing.” Belly breathing is more diffuse and occurs in the entire abdomen, in diaphragm breathing, the mid-section of the dividing line between the abdominal cavity and the chest cavity expands to its full capacity.

When you commit fully to exercise, in other words, give it your all, deep dynamic breathing comes naturally. Even if that exercise is Yoga provided you focus on your breath. Personally, I have found that I need the dynamic breathing that I get in exercise when I do my regular MLD. The reason I feel I need it is because of the extra volume of fluid that needs to be sucked up into the thoracic duct as not all of the fluid is able to be processed further down the line like it would if I did not have my lymph nodes removed.

Do’s & Don’ts

I remember my oncologist giving me a long list of don’ts. The one that really struck me down was ‘don’t walk on grass’. In that moment I felt my life was over, there was nothing I could do any more. Seeing my depressed anxiety his next words washed over me with ecstatic relief ‘it’s about the infection’. I got it, it doesn’t mean you CAN’T do these things it just simply means be careful, take precautions and if you get cut or bitten, treat it immediately to prevent any kind of infection getting in.

Being a major part of your immune system, it is important to note that if your body is fighting off an infection or illness of some kind your lymphatic system can slow down so it is always necessary to be diligent in maintaining a healthy lymphatic system. Likewise, it is essential that any cuts, bites etc are kept clean & treated with antibacterial wash or lotion. What I have found is that these wounds take a little longer to heal than normal which makes it more important to be proactive in preventing any possible infection.

Gravity does not assist in lymph flow when standing or sitting with your feet on the floor for long periods of time or restricted movements of your arm like sitting at a computer. So whenever possible walk around, do some arm & hand exercises, leg & ankle exercises as well as elevate your legs or arm to encourage the movement of lymph fluid. I would often sit with my legs raised up on a box under my desk to avoid pooling of fluid around my ankles. And some deep breathing exercises.

There is absolutely nothing that you cannot do particularly if it makes you happy, just use some common sense and look after yourself. Find ways that help you, be proactive.

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