Hints & Tips
Hints & Tips
This article is taken from the Summer 2020 issue of LymphLine, the LSN’s quarterly newsletter available to all LSN members. For details of how to become a member, click here.
The following hints and tips have been posted by the LSN on our Facebook page over the last few months. Since not all people are social media followers, we thought we would share some of them with you in our newsletter.
Know what you’re dealing with
Understanding what lymphoedema is and the effects it can have on your body, makes it easier to make sense of treatment and advice, and allows you to make informed decisions about your own situation. Read the ‘What is lymphoedema?’ page in the Information section on our website or search for ‘LSN What is lymphoedema?’ on YouTube.
Deep breathing is very important in lymphatic health because as well as being generally very good for you, it stimulates the two deepest lymphatics we have; particularly the thoracic duct which drains the fluid from both legs, pelvis, abdomen, head, neck and left arm back into the bloodstream so it can be processed and sent to the kidneys and urinated out. Our friends at Cancer Research UK have a great video to show you a wonderful technique. It is less than a minute long and will really make sure you are getting the best out of your breathing. Search for ‘Cancer Research deep breathing’ in YouTube.
Cut down on one thing in your diet that contains sugar
Don’t be tempted to swap to artificial sweeteners, we are looking to retrain you. Gradually works best, try a deeper roast coffee or a fruity tea, treat yourself to a proper tea cup or special coffee mug. Swap the cola for a fizzy water with ice and a slice of lemon or cucumber. Ditch the bar of milk chocolate for a couple of squares of darkest chocolate.
Keep your skin soft and flexible
The lymphatic system, as well as keeping the body fluid in balance, is also a vital part of managing infection. If the lymphatic system is not working as it should, the part of the body that is swollen is at risk from skin infections, particularly cellulitis. The best weapon you have against this is your skin. It keeps all those nasty bugs out but you need to keep it in top condition. Want to know more? Check out our short film on YouTube – search for ‘LSN skincare’.
Three-minute movement motivator!
Movement is important in lymphoedema management – it helps keep fluid on the move, it improves general health, stimulates endorphins and helps to manage your weight. But going to the gym is not for everyone and even the thought of exercise can be daunting if you struggle to get around, or are too busy to allocate specific exercise times, so try this. Choose a task that you do at least once a day or more that takes roughly three minutes – boiling the kettle for a cuppa, an advert break in your favourite programme, talking on the phone to friends or family, use the time to move… twirl your ankles, march on the spot, pick up a can of beans and do some arm curls, do a little dance, shrug your shoulders! Three minutes, a couple of times a day to start with will make a difference – give it a go.
Know your medications
Some medicines have a negative effect on swelling. Ones that are known to be problematic include calcium channel blockers, steroids, oestrogens, glitazones and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories. BUT please do not stop taking any prescribed medications without consulting your doctor or pharmacist first to see if any of your medications could be making your lymphoedema worse.
Carry your cellulitis alert card at all times
You will remember that the LSN produced an alert card and you should all have received one of these. These cards will direct those caring for you, when you experience an acute episode of cellulitis, to the latest consensus guidance on the treatment of cellulitis in lymphoedema which is on the LSN’s website. If you do not have a card call the LSN on 020 7351 4480.
Compression is a vital part of lymphoedema therapy
Although many people find wearing it can be a challenge, by doing so it limits the amount of fluid building up in the swollen area, it provides firm resistance for the muscles to work against, which helps lymphatic function, it helps fluid to move to an area where it can drain away more easily. Compression also provides support to skin that has been stretched by swelling and provides a constant mini-massage to the area to breakdown and help prevent tissues becoming hard. View it as a vital and useful part of your treatment.
Love your cuticles
The cuticle is a layer of clear skin along the bottom edge of your finger or toe. Its job is to protect new nails from bacteria when they grow out from the nail root. The area around the cuticle is delicate. It can get dry, damaged, and can not only become infected itself but also become a route for cellulitis to develop. Massage oil into your cuticles each night, the oil helps soften and condition the cuticle and surrounding skin and the gentle rubbing promotes nail health. Avoid cuticle clippers as they can easily cut the skin. There’s no need for expensive oils, simple olive oil, jojoba oil or even baby oil will do. Be careful when oiling toenails though as you will be slippery.
If possible, actively seek out others with the condition
It is estimated that over 400,000 people in the UK are living with the condition but it can still seem a very lonely place at times, so try to contact those who will understand the good days and bad days, the ups and downs, the small triumphs and the massive fails of living with lymphoedema. It might be that there is a local support group in your area, or that you would like to start one, or an online forum such as HealthUnlocked or one of the Facebook lymphoedema groups. We are stronger together. See our Support Groups page in the ‘About Us’ section on our website.
Restrictions on movement can be a real challenge for those with lymphoedema who need to move to keep lymphatics working. Try something new movement wise. Shake it up a bit, use the bottom step, the dining room chair, some bottles of water. The NHS has a whole virtual gym packed full of exercise routines that are adapted for those of all ages, abilities, fitness levels. Have a look, it’s all completely free. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/
Challenge yourself to try something new
Mental health is as important as physical health when living with a long-term health condition. Studies show that learning a new skill can boost your mental health significantly. It does not have to be something big; learn how to knit, try a new language, start cooking some new recipes, or conquer your computer skills.