I have had slight swelling in my left arm due to lymphedema from breast cancer surgery 4.5 years ago.?

I "baby" my arm, so it is very weak compared to my other arm. It flairs up occassionally. I also have tennis elbow due to an injury years ago. The swelling is right in the elbow area (not sure if there is a correlation.) I am only 38, and want to do martial arts training, which entails wearing tight hand wraps and boxing gloves, not to mention a lot of punching, etc. Will this only aggravate the symptoms? I plan to contact my doctor this week before continuing, but just wanted to see if anyone else has lymphedema and boxes. THANKS.

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  1. Tina, 25 November, 2009


    I’m Tina and I also have lymphedema in the arm and am a cancer survivor. What treatment have you had for the lymphedema?

    You are not going to be able to wear tight hand wraps but what you can do is get prescribed a compression sleeve and glove and wear those instead of the hand wraps and the boxing glove would fit over them. I would not just start martial arts without complete/complex decongestive therapy first and since you say the arm has been babied, some physical therapy to strengthen the muscles. Many studies are being done with dragon boat racing at the moment, it actually has helped women with lymphedema from cancer keep the swelling out of their arms and strengthen the arms as well.

    You have to make sure your doctor knows what lymphedema is, how to treat it, do’s and don’ts, ect, not all doctors are educated about our condition there are alot of them that prescribe diuretics and those can be dangerous because they push out the water part of lymph and leave the debris. The debris harden and cause fibrosis which blocks the lymph more and it’s a vicious cycle.

    You also want to learn all you can about the lymphedema. For example, it’s not "just your arm". For lymphedema to show up there has to be a blockage and stagnation of about 70% of the system, gravity will pull the swelling to the arms and legs because they are the lowest points of gravity, that’s why at night when you lay down, swelling goes down.

    You will have to just try the martial arts and see what happens. Some women do fine with boxing, rowing, and sports activities, and some do not, it’s how it affects your body.

    Learn about infections, injuries and what you can do to prevent them.

  2. traceycmt, 25 November, 2009

    Lymphatic drainage is protocol requiring special training; physical therapists and massage therapists often expand their course work to specialize in this work. You can find detailed information ie this powerful technique at http://www.upledger.com I believe you can even use their website to search for a practitioner by zip code. LDT will absolutely help your lymphedema. As far as the elbow goes, please go to a physical therapist or a massage therapist who does orthopedic assessment. SOME massage practitioners pursue many specialized courses and learn techniques that can rid you of tendinitis for instance. But you need to have it diagnosed first. Beware of a physician who helps by ONLY prescribing drugs. You do NOT have to live with the pain and you probably don’t have to take pharmaceuticals either.

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