Weightlifting Eases Lymphedema Symptoms

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A carefully controlled program of progressive weight training benefited women with lymphedema, a study out today in the New England Journal of Medicine reports.

Clinical trial results out of the University of Pennsylvania offer hope for women with the debilitating condition that arises after surgery or radiation therapy for breast cancer. When lymph nodes are removed or blocked during treatment, lymph fluid can build up in the upper arm, causing pain and swelling.

The study is a substantial contribution to the accumulating evidence for weightlifting, a reversal in conventional wisdom that women with lymphedema should avoid such activity, notes Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Behavioral Science in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Science.  

Demark-Wahnefried's accompanying editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine notes that women have been advised to avoid any vigorous, repetitive arm movements (scrubbing, pushing, pulling or hammering) or lifting more than 15 pounds. "But what should a woman do if, after her treatment, she returns home to a houseful of toddlers or has to push a mop for a living?"

The Penn study, distinguished from previous research by its larger size and longer duration, compared patients receiving usual care with women who followed a specific workout twice a week while wearing a custom-fitted compression bandage over the affected arm. All patients had a history of breast cancer treatment and clinically confirmed lymphedema.

Those in the weightlifting program reported improvement in their lymphedema symptoms and demonstrated increased lower and upper body strength, without a significant increase in arm swelling.

Cost analysis was not part of the study, Demark-Wahnefried writes, but weightlifting has the potential for cost savings by reducing direct health care costs, potentially reducing the risk of disability and  allowing women to return to work full time, whether in or outside of the home.

Lymphedema results when the lymph nodes are removed or blocked due to treatment and lymph fluid accumulates causing chronic swelling in the upper arm.

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muscle building workouts from muscle building workouts on September 12, 2009 7:22 PM

I haven’ t lost any weight during this second phase (which I’ m sure has more to do with what I was eating and not so much the workouts), and I found myself some days getting up in the morning and kinda dreading doing some of the workouts. ARX and C/ S... Read More

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