Category Archives: Lymphedema

The Best Ways to Avoid Summertime Injuries



The warm weather is here, and we have begun to cross off items on the “to-do” lists we crafted during winter. Some of us have made extremely long lists that are a mix of summertime fun and summertime chores, but whatever you have on your list, make sure you follow a few simple rules to avoid a trip to the emergency room.

“If doing something hurts, stop doing it,” said Melinda Allaire, PT, CLT Lymph Certified Therapist for RI Rehabilitation Services, and she teaches classes on lymphedema and breast reconstruction at the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation.

We convince ourselves that we’re able to lift more than we actually can or we’re able to cycle more miles than our bodies can handle. We believe the ridiculous adage, “no pain, no gain,” and that type of thinking often leads to injury.

“Weekend warriors tend to get injured because they take on too much and aren’t necessarily in shape,” said Allaire.

The best way to avoid injury while completing that weekend project is to stretch. Allaire’s advice is to perform slow neck and shoulder rolls for a couple of minutes, and stretch hamstrings just until you feel the stretch, before you begin working. More importantly, she suggests stopping to stretch while working. She also recommends breaking large projects into smaller, manageable sections. Of course, staying well-hydrated; wearing a hat; and slathering on a good coating of sunblock with a 30spf are also important.

In addition to the above information, breast cancer survivors need to take additional steps to ensure their summer is safe and injury-free. Breast cancer survivors should wear a compression sleeve on the arm of the affected side. They should also apply extra sunblock to any exposed skin that had been radiated, and they should avoid outside work or exercise in the early morning and just before dusk, when mosquitos are most active.

“Mosquito bites can cause cellulitis which can lead to lymphedema.” Allaire said.

The same rules apply to outdoor exercise. Gentle stretching of the muscles that will be used during the exercise and hydration are key. Allaire also warns to avoid strenuous exercise when the thermometer’s mercury is at its highest level.

If you do overdo it, and most of us have this tendency, Allaire suggests rest and ice to the area that was overworked. If the symptoms don’t go subside in a couple of days, she recommends you contact your doctor.

“You should seek medical attention immediately if there is any discoloration of the skin [of the injured area], you experience a rise in temperature or you experience sharp pain that doesn’t dissipate,” she said.

Summer is a great time to spend outdoors with long days and warm weather, and following a few common sense rules is a great defense to keep you in the summertime game.

By: Carol Donnelly, Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation

7 Ways To Manage Lymphedema

I am often asked how I manage my lymphedema well here it is:

  1. I live by the 80/20 rule. As long as I take care of myself 80% of the time, I feel like I’m doing pretty good. By living by the 80/20 rule I can let myself off the hook when I cheat and it makes it pretty easy to get back to it

  2. I eat healthy most of the time, mainly whole organic foods

  3. I juice pretty much every day

  4. I sweat almost every day to clear my head (walking is all it takes)

  5. I swim at least 4 times a week and do at least 10 deep dives when I go

  6. I wear my Active Massage compression pretty much all the time

  7. When I can, I go for MLD (LOVE IT!!!)

That’s it. No magic. I came about my routine through a lot of trial and error and an understanding of what I was willing to do. Just start where you can, it really is that simple.

Sue Callison Solidea Medical

Sue Callison of Solidea Medical

Lymphedema–Why don’t more cancer patients know about it?

I continue to be surprised by the number of cancer patients I see who don’t know about lymphedema.  In an effort to educate all, here is a simple explanation of what it is and why cancer patients often get it.

Lymphatic System

A few definitions that will help:

  • lymph·ede·ma:  ˌlim(p)-fi-ˈdē-mə  –  swelling due to faulty lymphatic drainage
  • interstitial spaces:   ˌin-tər-ˈsti-shəl  –  tissues between cells in the body
  • lymph:   ˈlim(p)f  –  a pale fluid that contains white blood cells.   It passes through channels in the body and helps to keep bodily tissues healthy.  It is primarily made up of the excess fluid from blood capillaries and is typically slightly more watery than blood.

Function of the lymphatic system:

To return excess fluid and protein from interstitial spaces to the cardio system.

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of protein-rich fluid in the interstitial tissue, resulting from obstruction of lymphatic drainage.

There are 2 classifications of lymphedema:

Primary – due to congenital malformations such as defective valves or vessels – something you are born with.

Secondary – or acquired lymphedema – is more common.  It is caused by problems with the lymphatic system after birth.

What causes lymphedema?

It is caused by a compromised lymphatic system that impedes lymphatic flow.  The most common causes of secondary lymphedema are malignancy and cancer treatment:

  • obstruction from cancer (tumor)
  • removal or radiation of lymph nodes

The most commonly affected area is the axillary region after mastectomy and radical dissection for breast cancer.  Lymphedema can also occur after regional removal of nodes in the pelvic or neck areas.

There is no cure for lymphedema.  However there are a number of interventions that help management it:

  • patient education
  • skin care
  • manual lymphatic drainage (MLD)
  • compression bandaging and garments
  • exercises
  • kinesio taping

Treatment:  The goal of lymphedema therapy is to:

  • restore function
  • reduce physical suffering
  • prevent development of infection

The benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage are numerous:

MLD Treatment for Upper Extremity LE

MLD Treatment for Upper Extremity LE

  • Circulation of lymph, blood capillaries, veins, interstitial liquids and cerebrospinal and synovial fluids (in-directly) are activated.
  • This action helps to reroute stagnant fluid in the skin (i.e., edema, primary and secondary lymphedema).
  • Effective in tissue regeneration.
  • Scars, stretch marks, wrinkles and fracture, or surgical-incision sites, are improved.
  • The functioning of the immune system is stimulated through increased lymph flow.

This information is just the tip of the iceberg and is intended to provide basic information about lymphedema and its treatment.

Please give me a call or leave a comment here for more information about how we can help.

By:  Susan Gee, Progressive Massage

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