Weight lifting may help to avert lymph problem

The conventional wisdom regarding the prevention of lymphedema after surgery for breast cancer is avoid lifting anything heavy, certainly no weight lifting. That depends how you lift those heavy weights. 

From this NYT article, Weight Lifting May Help To Avert Lymph Problem:

Last week, The New England Journal of Medicine reported on a study of 141 breast cancer patients who had lymphedema. Half adhered to the traditional restrictions, while the other half embarked on a slow, progressive program of weight lifting. To the researchers’ surprise, the weight lifters actually had significantly fewer flare-ups than the women who restricted their activity. 

“This is a very welcome study that very clearly shows controlled weight lifting does not make it worse and, in fact, improves symptoms. That should be a reason to re-evaluate a whole lot of things we tell people about lymphedema.” 

And this:

Corrie Roberts of Philadelphia developed lymphedema in her left arm in June 2004, about 18 months after a mastectomy. She had taken the usual precautions, but during back surgery the anesthesiologist mistakenly used her left arm to insert the intravenous line.

After taking part in the weight-lifting study, she said the swelling and discomfort were finally under control. She uses an exercise room in her apartment building and lifts weights three to five days a week.

“It sure was an improvement,” said Ms. Roberts, 75. “As long as I keep the weight lifting up, I don’t have swelling in my arm.”

This blog has already dealt with this subject in this blog post: Exercise for Women Living with Lymphedema

At Austin Personal Training and at New Orleans Fitness Training we have had success working with recovering cancer patients. The recovery systems of these patients are fragile. They cannot stand long bouts of exercise. Our personal training sessions are short and designed to efficiently stimulate a change; we then give them plenty of time to recover.

The equipment we use is MedX medical rehab equipment that is more easily tolerated by the joints. We can restrict the range of motion to a pain-free range of motion, and we use controlled movements to minimize forces that could aggravate pre-existing conditions.

Lance Armstrong once said. “Before I just lived now I live strong”. The catch 22 is doing it without aggravating pre-existing conditions. As the article points out, it can be done.