Exercise With Leg Lymphedema

Fitness Article: Exercise with Lymphedema of the Leg …

I am writing this article from two points of view, as an experienced fitness trainer / strength coach who has studied health issues for many years and as a patient who suffers with lymphedema of the leg daily. I have been able to maintain my lymphedema pretty well, but that is because I have done extensive reading on the subject, I listened to my doctors, and I have extensive knowledge of exercise. It is on my mind every day, at almost every moment because it takes great effort to maintain properly. I have included the description of lymphedema below.

Lymphedema is a difficult thing to deal with and must be maintained all day long, every day. There is no cure for lymphedema. I have had lymphedema in my leg since my 1991 cancer surgery. I went from being a gymnastics coach and fitness trainer who exercised daily to being bedridden after my surgery as a result of the lymph nodes being removed along with the cancer. My life changed drastically, but I went back to work and learned how to maintain it as soon as possible. Several doctors told me that I would be bedridden for the rest of my life and that I would never work again. That was in 1991.

So, what is lymphedema? Here is the definition by the National Lymphedema Network …

"Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial tissue that causes swelling, most often in the arm (s) and / or leg (s), and sometimes in other parts of the body. Lymphedema can develop when lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired (primary), or when lymph vessels are damaged or lymph nodes removed (secondary).

When the impairment becomes so great that the lymphatic fluid exceeds the lymphatic transport capacity, an abnormal amount of protein-rich fluid collects in the tissues of the affected area. Left untreated, this stagnant, protein-rich fluid not only causes tissue channels to increase in size and number, but also reduces oxygen availability in the transport system, interferes with wound healing, and provides a culture medium for bacteria that can result in lymphangitis ( infection). "

So, what types of exercise can a lymphedema patient perform? That depends on the patient and whether they have medical clearance to exercise. Once cleared for exercise, the best exercise to reduce the leg swelling is swimming because the person is horizontal, in motion, and performing a non-impact movement. The second best exercise for a person with leg lymphedema is riding a recumbent bike. It is also non-impact, it's a steady motion, and the legs are elevated slightly.

If the patient is in good physical condition otherwise and they have the lymphedema under control (as much as possible) they can use the elliptical machine. That is, if they can tolerate it from a fitness and medical standpoint. Make sure the lymphedema patient has permission from their doctor to perform exercise, especially an intense exercise such as the elliptical. Keep the person with lymphedema OFF THE TREADMILL. Walking and running cause the leg swelling to become MUCH worse because they are high impact. Picture someone putting ice cream into an ice cream cone and then packing it in. The swelling becomes dense, packed in if not maintained properly. The more severe, the more difficult it is to deal with.

In my experience, it can take an hour with the leg elevated before the swelling even BEGINS to go down and several days or weeks for it to completely drain. People with lymphedema should be wearing their compression stocking if their doctor prescribed it and sleeping with her legs elevated every night, unless their doctor has told them otherwise. It is important to stay in motion and to only perform non-impact exercises. For example, squats are often better than walking lunges for someone with lymphedema. The walking lunge is an impact exercise. Do NOT encourage a person with leg lymphedema to participate any exercise classes that include impact exercises. If they are in good shape the spin classes will keep the circulation going and help will lose or maintain a healthy body weight. It's all about keeping the body in motion without ANY impact exercises.

Keep in mind that of the lymphedema is from a new surgery the patient MUST be cleared to begin exercise because if they begin to exercise before the doctors allow them to exercise they will cause problems with the lymphatic system. My doctors told me the swelling from the surgery would never go down if I started to exercise too soon and that I would cause permanent damage. I was told to wait one full year after my surgery before I was allowed to exercise my legs. I waited 10 months and couldn't stand it any longer. I HAD to return to exercise because it was what I enjoyed and it was my life. Not being allowed to exercise my legs was extremely difficult for me because I spent a lifetime in the gym. Again, make sure the lymphedema patient has FULL medical clearance to exercise.

Here is something that many people do not know. When a person with lymphedema is not in motion and does not have compression stocking on their leg, they must keep their legs elevated in order to prevent swelling. Something as simple as waiting in line at the grocery store could cause enough swelling to keep a person in bed the next day. The swelling begins in less than a minute, literally, when standing still or sitting without the leg elevated. It is truly a challenge every minute of the day to keep the leg from swelling and those around lymphedema patients must be patient and considerate.

There is plenty of information on lymphedema. It is either primary or secondary. Secondary lymphedema would be caused from something such as a cancer surgery. Mine is secondary because my lymph nodes were removed from my upper thigh on one leg during my cancer surgery. If the lymphedema is not controlled it can end up being elephantitis. Yes, it is a real medical condition and it is very serious. There are lymphedema support groups throughout the USA. The National Lymphedema Network has plenty of information.

Let me know how I can help you …
Karen Goeller, CSCS

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Jobs For Retirees – Finding The Perfect Retirement Job

Working After Retirement

Now I'm living the dream and while I enjoy the freedom of not having to work, working is still a part of my life. Work still provides some positive things that I need and I don't know how to turn off the work ethic that took a lifetime to develop.

The big difference is that now, I'm not committed to 40 hours a week, every week. Most of the retired people I know are still working in some capacity. It's just something we do.

But the question most people ask me when they begin thinking about retirement is "Why work after you retire?" . An old friend of mine had one of the best answers. He said "You can sit on the porch for only so long." He was 80 when he took his last part-time job.

The question I always ask is "What do you want to do after you retire?" and there may be several answers to that question. The decision will generally be based on how financially secure you are going to be after you retire. For some of us, working, even part-time, will be a reality. How many seniors do you see working in restaurants and department stores?

So, what is the perfect retirement job for you?

The Perfect Part-Time Job

The perfect retirement job might be the one you have now. Except on your own terms. I know several people who retired and agreed to come back to work on a part-time basis for their former employer. They get to use their vast store of knowledge, work shorter hours with people they already know and get paid pretty well for it. A win-win situation if you can get it. The place to start is to find out if your company already uses part-time employees or make an offer to your company to provide valuable services after you retire.

If you have technical experience, you might explore consulting as a part-time job. My consulting work started shortly after I retired in 2009 with a phone call from a company asking if I could help them out with a short term project doing exactly what I did before I retired. I've been working four to six months a year ever since.

There are several other possibilities for part-time work that you could consider;

Do you like to drive and travel? Recreational vehicle dealers in your area might have a need for someone to transport motor homes from one dealership to another. Check with your local RV dealers and offer your services as a driver. Some might require a class C driver's license, but the rewards of being paid to travel to different parts of the country in a luxury motor home might be worth the effort.

I know a retired guy who used to drive cars between auto dealerships in his city and another who delivered cars for Enterprise car rental. This type of work is a little more difficult to get into because auto dealers usually have someone on staff deliver cars. It doesn't hurt to ask and it might result in a unique part-time job.

Uber, the ride sharing service that was started on the internet a couple of years ago offers opportunities to generate some additional cash. I don't know what the pricing structure is, but it should be easy to sign up for and generate some extra cash. Another big benefit for a retiree, you get to work when you want to and on your terms.

When most people think about a part-time job, the first thing that comes to mind is a low paying structured job where you report to a place at a certain time, put in some hours and get paid. This works and has been the norm since forever. But, the real key to finding unusual ways to earn extra cash is to look around, watch the news and see what is happening in the world today.

If you see something unusual that interests you, check it out. It might just be the perfect part-time job.

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