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  • Jeanine Mewburn

MOVING FOR LYMPHOEDEMA


Let’s have a look at our evolution. We are in the foetus position for 9 months in the womb. As soon as we feel the atmosphere around us at birth, we stretch, cry, and take a lung full of air. As time goes on, our curiosity takes the better of us and we eventually stand up, move around and touch everything. I know that times are changing but many of us lived a childhood and adolescence moving constantly: walking to school, bike riding, swimming, playing sports or just playing with friends. It appears that from 18-20 years old onwards, life settles and so do we. We work or study for long hours, some keep moving and others sit while doing serious, interesting, loving things like forming a family, building a career or a business. Life is busy and we stop moving as much. Inactivity is our worst enemy for several reasons. Together with gravity, inactivity can cause the blood and lymph circulation to slow down and the fluid to pool in the extremities. Muscles are weaker and joints can lose their range of movement and become painful among other changes occurring in the body in the long term. People recovering from an accident or surgery where lymph nodes have been damaged or removed are more at risk to develop lymphoedema because their lymphatic system is compromised. Muscles, when working are changing tissue pressure, increasing the deep lymphatic vessel contractions. Joints when moving are mechanically pumping lymph nodes located in their vicinity, and your breathing changes tissue pressure and has a suction effect on the biggest lymphatic trunk that removes the excess fluid from the lower abdomen and the legs to return it to the heart. We need to restore the ease by which we are able to move. It sometimes takes a change in lifestyle to ensure long term success. Some of you like exercising and others don’t. Therefore, it is best to do what you like best, even if it means that you are doing less than somebody else. You may start with increasing your incidental activity like walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift, parking the car further away from the entrance of the supermarket. It does not matter what you do. What matters is that you are consistent doing it. You may need to feel the benefit of the change before implementing the next step, which may be walking 10 minutes around the block daily. It becomes easy then to increase your activity over time. In six months, you may be able to walk 4 kilometres, 4 times/week for 40 minutes. What a great achievement that would be.

For others, Tai-chi, swimming, joining a walking group or bike riding may be a better option. Really, do whatever floats your boat, as you are more inclined to stick to it if you like it. The beauty of life is that we have the privilege and power of choice. Let’s use it and move on.


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