Lymphedema Responds Positively to Weight Lifting

One of the most feared complications of breast cancer surgery is lymphedema, a potentially disfiguring, disabling, and incurable problem. Consequently, weight lifting has generally been proscribed for those women with this condition–preventing them from getting the well-established health benefits of strength-training, including increased bone density. Now, in a year-long, randomized, controlled trial of twice weekly progressive weight lifting in 141 women with lymphedema there was no significant effect on limb swelling. In fact, those weight lifting had reduced symptoms, increased strength, and fewer exacerbations than the controls. This probably happens because exercise facilitates the flow of lymph and protein resorption. The women did wear well-fitted compression garments.

PositiveTip: Good news! Women with lymphedema should pursue progressive weight lifting with the use of compression garments. Talk to your doctor about how to begin.