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Arm and Hand

Movements designed to strengthen the use of muscles in your swollen arm or hands and stimulate lymph drainage and is especially aimed at those who have had breast cancer surgery and subsequent treatment that has led to breast cancer related lymphoedema (BCRL). 


L-W-O Community tries not to use the word exercise and prefers the term 'movement', and through out our community you will see the hashtag #getmoving.  The movements on this page are designed to reduce swelling caused by the build-up of lymph fluid. 


Why is this important?


Movement helps the lymph fluid through the lymphatic system, muscles contract and push the lymph through the lymph vessels this helps to reduce swelling, stops the fluid from stagnating and lowers the risk of infection.

Arm and Hand

  1. Elbow bend - Bend your arm at the elbow, then straighten it slowly.  If your arm is heavy rest it on a table.

  2. Wrist exercise - Bend and stretch your hand at the wrist so that your fingertips point to the ceiling and then to the floor.

  3. Clenched fist - Slowly spread out your fingers and hold for the count of 5, then make a fist whilst resting your elbow on a flat surface.

  4. Fingers - With your right hand touch your index finger to your thumb, repeat with each of your fingers through to your little finger.  Change to your left hand and fingers.  Finally repeat using both hands.   

  5. Large Circles - Draw a circle clockwise with your right arm x 2.  Repeat anti clockwise x 2.  Repeat with your left arm.

  6. Fridge reach - stand with your right arm out, push to the side x 4 relax.  Repeat left side.

In between each set of exercises, gently shake your arms and hands, this helps to loosen the muscles and helps you relax. 

Our Guidelines

I remember being given a long list of dos and don’ts about exercise, I shouldn’t wear my shoulder bag on my affected side, no more lifting of heavy shopping or anything else that might put my arm at risk.  Thankfully several years have passed since my diagnosis and now it is deemed that exercise or movement should be very much a part of lymphoedema management and breast cancer recovery.

One of the questions we are often get asked on support group is “When exercising do I wear my compression garment"? Absolutely wearing your compression will help the muscle to pump and increase lymph drainage.

Start off slowly with you exercises, make sure you do warm-up exercises before your start.  Stop to take on fluids, keep hydrated, and remember to do cool-down exercises.

Only do as much as you feel able to do, better to build a routine slowly until you are comfortable with what you are doing.

Wear non restrictive clothing, and clothes you feel comfortable in that leave no indentations.

Finally check for signs of increased swelling, learn to understand your body because it will tell you if you when you have done too much.

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