Introduction There is emerging evidence supporting the benefits of exercise in helping to relieve the symptoms of lymphoedema by stimulating lymphatic flow and improving circulation, which then reduces swelling. It also increases flexibility and joint range of motion, strengthens muscles and improves posture. A weekly group exercise programme was set up, tailored specifically to meet the needs of those with lymphoedema on the hospice caseload.
Aims of the project To improve physical symptoms and quality of life for people with lymphoedema. To provide a relaxed and sociable environment to exercise in. To give peer support and an opportunity to spend time with others who have similar problems. To empower the participants to continue to self-manage their condition, continuing with exercise at home and/or in their local communities.
Approach used All patients attend an initial full physiotherapy and lymphoedema assessment which involves measurement of the affected limb(s), outcome measures of a five times sit to stand test and a quality of life questionnaire. Patients attend a weekly exercise class for eight weeks. The sessions begin with a warm up aimed at improving lymphatic drainage, followed by an individually tailored circuit type exercise session and end with a gentle cool down. At the end of the eight sessions outcome measures are repeated.
Outcomes A clear link between exercise and reduction in limb size, improved mobility and general wellbeing has been observed with improvements in all outcome measures. Other benefits of the programme include improved confidence and self-esteem, increased take up of exercise and change in garment type required.
Conclusion Exercise can have far reaching benefits to those living with lymphoedema; significantly improving strength, stamina and overall quality of life.