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Topic: Mild lymphedema after exercise

Forum: Lymphedema — Risks, tips for prevention, and info about products that can address the symptoms of lymphedema.

Posted on: Jun 21, 2018 03:09AM

Cyto_Destructo wrote:

I'm a 3 yeah survivor and have started trying to exercise more. I did upper body exercise and it triggered some swelling in my armpit on the affected side.

I only had one or two lymph nodes removed so my lymphedema isn't a chronic problem. I mainly noticed swelling if I wear a bra too long. And recently, when I do push ups or weights.

The swelling and pain started in my armpit and the next day I could feel it in the back of my arm and the day after that was even lower. By the fourth day, the pain and swelling reached just below my elbow then it all started feeling better and going back to normal.

I have an appointment with my oncologist next week to try and find a solution but I'd appreciate advice and opinions from others with lymphedema.

Would a compression sleeve be a good idea for exercise, and if so how long should I wear it?


Dx 2/2015, Right, <1cm, Stage IIA, ER+, HER2- Chemotherapy 4/23/2015 AC + T (Taxol) Surgery 2/5/2018 Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Underarm/Axillary Radiation Therapy Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Jun 21, 2018 03:33PM gb2115 wrote:

Hi and welcome to BCO! If you have noticeable swelling, do consider seeing a lymphedema specialist for help. You would need one to properly fit you in a sleeve (you don't want one that is ill-fitting), and they can assess and keep an eye on you. Your oncologist should be able to refer you to someone! Until then, maybe skip the upper body exercise (or keep it light), and skip the bra when you get a chance. I get truncal swelling if I wear a bra for too long, so the first thing I do when I get home from work is take it off. I also skip it when I'm home over the weekend. It's like the fluid needs freedom to drain from the area.

Hope it all gets better!

Dx IDC in October 2016, stage 2A, 1.2 cm ER/PR+ Her2-, Grade 2, 1/3 nodes. Mammaprint low risk luminal A, Lumpectomy + radiation + tamoxifen. Age 38 at diagnosis.
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Jun 30, 2018 12:32AM kriserts wrote:

Hi, yes, I've been instructed to always wear a sleeve when I exercise. I lift weights (kind of start and stop) and I race bikes so I'm out cycling for hours at a time. I have lymphedema in my upper arm, and it's kept fairly stable. I think everyone reacts differently though. I'd get fitted for a sleeve, wear it when you exercise, and see if you still have swelling.

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Jun 30, 2018 07:00AM DATNY wrote:

I was also told to stop the exercise if I notice swelling. And to increase exercise intensity slowly. I was told that once the lymp vessel have increased in size they cannot go back by themselves because the walls are not elastic. Thus, the need for compression sleeves.

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Jun 30, 2018 09:08AM beach2beach wrote:

I'm not a year out yet, but I noticed the same when I use arm weights. I have not gone back to doing arm exercises I used to do at the gym and since i notice swelling after using little home arm weights, I don't think I want to. I'm trying to find other ways to tone my arms. I only had sentinel node removal and i think one more on the affected side.

Dx 7/28/2017, LCIS/DCIS/ILC, Right, <1cm, Stage IA, Grade 1, 0/2 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2- Surgery 8/8/2017 Mastectomy: Left, Right; Reconstruction (left); Reconstruction (right) Hormonal Therapy 9/12/2017 Tamoxifen pills (Nolvadex, Apo-Tamox, Tamofen, Tamone)
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Jun 30, 2018 03:56PM Cyto_Destructo wrote:

Thanks for everybody's input :)

I saw a lymphedema specialist this past week and they measured me for a sleeve. The doctor said to wear it when I exercise.

My insurance won't cover the cost of a compression sleeve but I've found a local BC charity that will help me with the cost.

Dx 2/2015, Right, <1cm, Stage IIA, ER+, HER2- Chemotherapy 4/23/2015 AC + T (Taxol) Surgery 2/5/2018 Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Underarm/Axillary Radiation Therapy Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole)
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Jul 8, 2018 06:12PM Doc wrote:

I started doing weight training 6 weeks ago after being pretty sedentary. It has been going well and I was feeling proud of my progress, but this week it took me longer than usual to get over muscle soreness after a workout. One more day of weight lifting gave me swelling of my right arm starting around the elbow but progressing down almost to my wrist, with pitting edema.

After realizing that it was not just my muscles getting bigger Sad, it finally occurred to me that this was lymphedema. I am 13 years out from my lumpectomy/chemo/radiation and only had a sentinel node removal.

I plan to see my oncologist to check things out, and get fitted for a compression sleeve. Can anyone comment about continuing to do weight training despite a lymphedema issue? Do you wear the sleeve during weight training as well as during the day? Would wearing a tight sports bra during exercise add to the problem?

I was surprised and bummed out to have this happen so many years later.

Doc Dx 2/8/2005, IDC, 1cm, Stage I, Grade 2, 0/1 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
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Jul 9, 2018 04:29AM - edited Jul 9, 2018 04:39AM by Cyto_Destructo

@Doc, we have a similar issue I think.

My lymphedema specialist recommend I wear a sleeve during exercise and for about an hour after I get done.

It's important to gradually increase exercise. For me it's been trial and error figuring out how much I can do and how quickly I can increase.

In my experience a bra will make it worse. Even a well fitted and comfortable bra. I've been wearing a bra as minimally as I can.

After you consult your oncologist for a compression sleeve, I'd suggest waiting for the swelling to go away completely before you start arm exercises again. Once you feel normal again, try just half of what you were doing for a while and see if you can do that for a while with no swelling. Then gradually increase with caution.

Dx 2/2015, Right, <1cm, Stage IIA, ER+, HER2- Chemotherapy 4/23/2015 AC + T (Taxol) Surgery 2/5/2018 Surgery Lumpectomy: Right; Lymph node removal: Underarm/Axillary Radiation Therapy Breast, Lymph nodes Hormonal Therapy Arimidex (anastrozole)

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