The first time I see a patient is for the evaluation. At the end of the evaluation I give my patients a packet of information to take home and read, instruct them in the Anatomy and Physiology of the Lymph System, and give them two things to get a head start on before we initiate our treatments. These two things are:
- Any time you wash, dry, or lotion the swollen arm/leg, always rub up towards the body/heart. What we generally do is rub up and down. The lymph system is very close to the surface and the normal pressure we use to do these every day activities of washing, drying and putting on lotion is enough to stimulate that lymph system, so move the direction we want the fluid to go.
- Deep Abdominal Breathing: The last tube of the Lymphatic system goes up through the chest passing through the Diaphragm. As we breathe the Diaphragm moves up and down massaging the lymph fluid up and into the Blood Circulatory System. Thus, by doing Deep Abdominal Breathing it creates a “wicking” effect, drawing the lymph fluid from the limbs and body.
- Deep Abdominal Breathing: Place one hand on your chest, the other hand on your stomach just below the ribs. Breath in slowly through your nose – your chest should stay still while your stomach expands out. Then blow the air out through your mouth as if blowing out 50 birthday candles – your stomach should pull in. Your exhale should be twice as long as your inhale. Do 10 of these breaths as often as you can recall throughout the day. (If you start to feel light headed stop and breath normal. To not get light headed, pause for 2 seconds at the end of each inhale and each exhale.)
With these two activities I often see patients return to start treatment with some decrease in their swelling.
Sonja M. Maul PT, CLT-LANA
National Board Certified Lymphedema Therapist