Lymphoedema (pronounced Lim-fo-dee-ma) is a chronic inflammatory condition in which a part of the lymphatic drainage system fails to work effectively. Lymphoedema affects all ages. There are estimated to be almost 450,000 people in the UK with lymphoedema. It is more common than the combined number of people with Multiple Sclerosis, Motor Neurone Disease, HIV and Parkinson’s Disease.
Your lymphatic system needs movement, stretching and activity to remove the fluid and cells from your tissues that the body doesn’t need. This doesn’t need to be vigorous exercise. Indeed, the best way to help your lymphatic system to do its job is to have short, regular periods of activity that can easily be built into your daily life. That’s why we are asking you to ‘Find 3 Minutes’ at various times throughout the day when you can do something to wake up your lymphatic system and help it to get your lymph moving. Even if your mobility is limited or need help to move any part of your body there are things you can do.
So, when could you Find 3 to boost your lymphatic system?
Anytime you are waiting for something to happen you could be giving your lymphatic system a boost, e.g. waiting….
- for the kettle to boil
- on hold on a telephone call
- in your car for lights to change
- for a large document or website to download on your PC
- in a queue
- during the adverts on TV programmes
- for the microwave to ping
- for the toast to ‘pop’up’
Try to Make 3 at other times to relieve tension and stiffness, as well as boosting your circulation and your lymphatic system. If you spend a lot of time in one position, such as on a computer, tablet or phone, or just watching TV, make set times to get up and move around a bit or stretch your muscles, ideally every hour. Set yourself an alarm as a reminder or put a sticky note on your fridge door encouraging you to have a stretch every time you open the door to take something out.
Instead of just waiting, here are a few things you could do
Caution – Never force a stretch beyond what is comfortable for you
From standing, slowly raise yourself on to your tiptoes and then lower yourself back down. Repeat!
Variation: A seated option will get your calf muscle pump going too. While seated, sit up straight with your feet flat on the floor. Raise your knees so that your feet are on their tiptoes and lower.
From a seated position: Straighten one or both legs out in front of you. Pull your toes up towards you so that you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Hold for a few seconds and release. Repeat this a few times.
From standing: Support yourself if needed by holding on to a worktop, desk or chair. Stretch one leg slightly forwards and pull your toes up towards your leg. Your heel may be on the floor for support. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, release by pointing your toe. Repeat this stretch and relax a few times. Then do the same on the other leg.
Whether sitting or standing, lift one knee up as high as you can, then rest it down. Do the same with the other knee. Repeat alternate knee lifts a few times.
Deep breathing helps muscles move fluid through the lymphatic system, clearing lots of toxins. Slow deep breaths stretch the chest muscles and can be done anywhere. It is also good to do these with some slow stretches such as those below.
Breathe in slowly as you tilt your head slightly back to look towards the ceiling. Breathe out slowly and you bend your chin towards your chest. Repeat a few times.
Look straight ahead. Keeping your shoulders facing forwards, turn your head slowly to one side, as far as is comfortable, return to the front, then turn to the other side, slowly. Repeat a few times.
Stretch one arm up as straight and high as you can, hold for a couple of seconds then lower your arm. Do the same with the other arm. Repeat a few times.
Take one arm across your body and stretch it as far as you can to the other side. You can use the other arm for support if you need to. Release it, then stretch the other arm across to the other side. Repeat both stretches a few times.
Clasp your hands together in front and stretch out as far as you can. Hold for a few seconds, release and repeat a few times.
Place your hands on your upper chest and lift up your elbows so they stick out to the side. Move your elbows in big circles, moving backwards a few times. Then change direction and rotate them forwards.
Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, push them back (stretching your chest muscles), pull them down, push them forwards to stretch your back muscles. Repeat and do a few rotations in one direction, then the other. This is really good for relieving tension in your shoulder and neck muscles.
Our Lymphoedema service provides specialist care for patients living with primary, secondary lymphoedema and chronic oedema.