It’s been wickedly hot and humid for June here in New York (when we’re not having violent thunder storms). Over the last few days I’ve had a chance to get out on some nice hikes in the woods by my house. I’ve been careful to wear my compression sleeve while hiking. Since I only wear it as a precaution, I sometimes have to remind myself to put it on before I go hiking. It’s something I’ve learned from experience. I have had a couple of lymphedema flair-ups in the past – nothing too serious; I was able to get it under control in a few days with exercises to encourage drainage and by keeping my arm elevated. But since then, I wear a sleeve as a precaution when doing higher risk activities, like long flights or being up at high altitude. When I hike, I normally get a little puffy, especially when it’s hot and humid. After my surgery, I started going on short hikes at first, just to see how my arm would react. I learned to take short breaks to elevate my arm, maybe do some backward circles with my arms out to the side, or raise my arm and jiggle it to encourage my body to pump the lymph out of my arm. Now, I wear my sleeve and glove when it’s hot and humid, but still do a few arm circles. Unfortunately, it is an ongoing issue – it doesn’t go away, but it is quite possible to manage. I would rather have to remember to wear the sleeve and elevate my arm than not go out for a hike.
It is important to start slowly, even if you’ve been very active in the past. You need to see how your body will react now. Do a little at a time, and slowly increase the duration or intensity. Even if it takes a little adjustment (wearing a sleeve, if necessary, or taking breaks to elevate the limb), it’s worth it to get out and get some exercise, doing something you enjoy.