Lymphedema exercises


Your lymphatic system circulates fluid and harmful substances through your body to the lymph nodes where infection-fighting cells flush them from your body. When your lymph vessels become impaired (lymphedema) your system doesn't drain properly. This often occurs because of a disease or health condition you have, or sometimes it manifests on its own for unknown reasons. Although currently incurable, learning how to stimulate lymphatic drainage will help remove these harmful substances.





The above image is the best analogy that I can place on lymphatic drainage because it depicts a very similar mechanical "squeezing" action that takes place in the movement of lymph fluid and how it happens.  We know the lymph system does not have the luxury of a beating/pumping heart.  Lymph fluid moves through a very sophisticated check valve pumping action, activated from muscle etc. movements in key areas of the body designed by the man upstairs.  To me it is one of the most incredible functions of the human body.

The Program


We have devised an exercise program regarding the lymph nodes for any one including men and what they should do to “move” lymph fluid on a regular basis.  This feature is limited to a few examples, breast lymphatic drainage for one, but there is a host of different methods to move lymph fluid and they are detailed in a sister feature with more information regarding the lymph system and ways to enhance it and I would suggest that you check it out.


Lymph nodes are round- or bean-shaped structures found in clusters in various parts of the body – neck, armpit, groin, and inside the centre of the chest and abdomen. Whenever the lymph fluid detects foreign material such as bacteria, these nodes produce the white blood cells to help fight the infection. They also filter the lymph fluid and remove foreign material, such as bacteria and cancer cells.

Link is below.



The picture to the left indicates the complexity of the lymph nodes and network.  Take particular notice of the lymph node concentration in the groin area that services the critical lower extremities on the way to the heart for final elimination.


I personally believe that stagnate lymph fluids can actually be the forerunner of breast cancer versus the traditional belief that lymph nodes become cancerous and always initiated by breast cancer. The question is what comes first the chicken or the egg? If you have poor circulation in the lymph areas trying to work diligently to drain the breasts, it would seem to me that poor lymph drainage could actually be the impetus for breast cancer.  This must be a concern for patients who have had node dissection and where the area remaining has been compromised.


Draining your breasts gently on a regular basis even if Lymphedema has not surfaced could make the difference and instructions from a trained lymphedema specialist would be well worth your while.  Unfortunately this profession in some cases would just as soon do the treatments themselves versus training you to do it.  When you have a treatment be very observant and in particular how proper drainage is affected with a very gentle approach.  I would suggest a combination of both professional treatment and home therapy and hopefully under the  direction of a professional because of the sensitive nature regarding the correct process.


As mentioned above for those who have undergone lymph node dissection in a breast procedure it is very important that you continue to maintain the areas involved.  My wife in particular had dissection and is presently doing a series of intelligent exercises every day in these critical areas and this includes some light weights to maintain muscle,  because as you get older muscle mass depletes especially from neglect.  If you lose muscle in these critical areas it is not too long before things can go down hill fast.


Walking properly can be a very valuable means to move lymph fluid. You will notice the woman on the left bringing her hand out and one hand back in a military fashion.  In this particular movement we recommend going through a modest isometric exercise that will activate areas underneath the arm in the axilla areas.  (Don't over do it.  You certainly do not have to do it on every set of strokes, just occasionally)   Of course this entire walking  process from head to toe can use these principles and again professional advice is recommended when you are dealing with a sensitive area that is subject to maintenance and or poor drainage.  We cannot stress the need to do these exercises in moderation. 


Another pointer is obtaining enough protein such as whey or if milk is a problem there are other good sources of protein such as rice and soy.  Building or at the least maintaining muscle in critical areas will insure adequate lymphatic activity.


So below is a procedure that I personally do and recommend to everyone most every day to move lymph fluids adequately.   I am going to concentrate below on the breasts,  but lymph fluid movement provides a healing path for many issues. 


Another practice is dragging your hands on the inside of your legs through to the groin area and into the stomach.  The groin area incidentally has a large delegation of the 600 lymph nodes in the body.  In fact it is advised to gently rub your hands over your stomach in a circular fashion again very lightly after each leg and groin drag with a minimum amount of compression.  I personally do this every morning when I do my regular exercises and after I do a few leg exercises to start the process.  We bring in other areas to note the fact that even though they may not be relative to your original concern, clearing out areas ahead of a problem area are very important to make room in the process.  So clearing out the groin and stomach areas will have a benefit to all areas, below and above that need to be drained.


The Breast


You will see in the series of photos below that part of the breast and axilla regimen is where an isometric type of a dynamics is applied to the upper extremities by using the school exercise and the A-E-I-O-U vowels.  In fact each when practiced you can feel the dynamics from the head, under the chin, down through the neck and into the clavicles.   These are the same areas that your Doctor investigates when you visit him/her with a problem.  Each letter will produce a slightly different dynamics to these upper extremities, but gentle enough not to cause undue impact.  It is this isometric process that lightly drives lymph fluid from again the upper extremities and down to the heart.





There are 3 other parts to this exercise that are done in tandem.


There is the “chicken wing” part in tandem with the isometric dynamics of the exercises above and where the elbows are brought forward to the nipples and during the process the elbows are very very gently dragged to the rear of each breast and down into  the axilla areas in the armpits that  are the direct path to the lymph node/thoracic/heart elimination network.


Incidentally if you want to get a little head start on your Doctor and have the symptoms of the flu or virus and even a cold, work those areas underneath the chin and alongside the neck with a light hand massage always toward the heart along with the AEIOU demo above with that Hollywood celebrity.  (No it is not Brad Pitt)


In this process breathing in and directing the air intake into the lower area of the chest and diaphragm  is critical.   This is the preferred method of deep breathing versus directing it into the upper area of the chest which is referred to as "shallow breathing".  Walking and proper deep breathing at the same time produces some real nice health dividends by the way.   Walking with a toe to heel motion is a natural pumping process for lymph fluids because the lymph system is not blessed with a in house pump like the heart.


Keep in mind that proper deep breathing in itself stimulates the movement of lymph fluid to and fro the lymph nodes and to the heart.


The last part before the next cycle and letter is the full exhaling of air from the stomach and diaphragm.  So basically when you put all of the parts together it is one flowing motion. 


You start with the first vowel, hold it through the entire cycle, and bring in the “chicken wings” and gently dragging from front of the breast to the rear.  At the same time you are breathing in to the max and if done correctly you will see your stomach expand, not your chest.


The last part would be the exhale process and relieving the tension of the dynamics of each vowel.  Keep in mind each cycle is only a matter of seconds, perhaps 5 to 8 seconds.


Be assured


Whatever isometric exercise you can dream up be assured you will be enhancing the flow of lymphatic fluid movement and the Internet is chuck full of demonstrations.  Just put in any search condition relative to the topic and you will hit pay dirt and you will be a lot better health wise for it.