The myths of managing Lymphoedema

There are so many different sources of information on Lymphoedema it can be difficult to sort the myths from reality. While support groups can be a great comfort during your journey from diagnosis to living with your condition, it’s important to remember that the contributors aren’t medical professionals and the advice you receive may not always be accurate. Taking a common-sense approach, combined with facts from your care provider, will help you enjoy life to the full.

MYTH: You can’t exercise with Lymphoedema

Lymphoedema can cause painful swelling and make mobility difficult, but it doesn’t mean you have to forego all exercise. It’s widely reported that a combination of gentle exercise, such as walking or light weight-lifting, can actually enhance quality of life and management of your symptoms. However, before you attempt any form of unprescribed activity, always discuss it with your care provider first.

MYTH: Lymphoedema means compression for the rest of your life

It’s true that Lymphoedema is a long-term condition and something you will potentially have to manage for life. But, there are some actions, known as ‘modifiable risk factors’, that you can take to reduce the amount of compression you need. Losing weight, exercising more, improving your diet or adopting a good skincare routine, can all help to control your symptoms and help your compression therapy to do its job.

MYTH: If you have Lymphoedema, you can’t fly

Many people assume that air travel is out of the question for those living with Lymphoedema. The truth is, you can still go on holiday and enjoy yourself, it just takes a little extra preparation. Speak to your care provider before you travel and wear compression garments that have been prescribed. Getting out of your seat and walking around regularly, especially if the flight is longer than three hours, should help reduce any swelling. For lower extremity lymphoedema, do not remove your shoes during the flight as it may allow your feet to swell.  An easy exercise in flight is to pump your ankles (move your feet / ankles up and down).

MYTH: Compression makes Lymphoedema worse

You might hear people on Lymphoedema forums saying that compression has actually made their swelling worse. If your symptoms are progressing, it’s more likely that you have an ill-fitting garment or that you may need to wear compression more consistently. Go back to your care provider and ask them to reassess your needs. With the right product, used in the right way, you should soon start to get the swelling under control.