The East Coast was hit with a blizzard this weekend, and here in Baltimore we ended up with a record-breaking snowfall of over two feet. What started out as a beautiful winter wonderland has quickly become a huge inconvenience: many of the streets and sidewalks are still buried, and travel is near impossible in some areas. Needless to say, I did not leave my apartment for a couple days! Being snowed in meant a lot of sitting around, and although I was mindful about keeping my leg elevated, I still noticed a change in how it felt.
My lymphedema leg has felt dense all weekend, and even though my leg didn’t look any more swollen than usual, it sure felt like it; it was as though the lymph fluid was all backed up and my right leg was about three times heavier than my left one. I’ll admit I haven’t been wearing my compression stockings—just the night garment—and this lack of self-care coupled with my sitting on the couch binge-watching Netflix these past few days sure hasn’t helped!
My leg felt so clogged because it was: my lymph wasn’t flowing like it should due to my inactivity. Our lymphatic system is a lot like our main circulatory system minus one crucial thing: there’s no pump! The heart acts as a pump for the cardiovascular system, moving blood in a continuous loop around the body, but the lymphatic system is passive—it needs a push from actions like deep breathing, manual lymph drainage massage, or the movement of nearby muscles and blood vessels to get the fluid flowing and to remove toxins.
Because our lymphatic systems are damaged, they need that much extra help in getting things circulating. It’s incredibly important we stay active and move our bodies so as to facilitate healthy lymph flow, whether it’s a thirty minute walk or fifteen minutes gently bouncing on a mini-trampoline. Wearing compression garments during exercise helps pump the fluid and move it through the lymphatic system, and performing manual lymph drainage beforehand opens up these channels for easier flow.
The snow finally stopped on Sunday, and I ventured outside with a couple friends to explore our freshly blanketed neighborhood. It felt good to get moving, and trekking through two feet of snow proved to be a great workout! I don’t know if it was the crisp post-blizzard air or the happy exhaustion that only climbing through giant snowbanks brings, but I felt a lot better physically and mentally. I went out again the next day, too!
I’ve realized it’s best for my health when I get some fresh air and get walking. Obviously, it can be a little dangerous as not all sidewalks (or even side streets) are cleared, and there are patches of ice to watch out for, so be sure to exercise caution should you venture out in the snow!
PS: You don’t need to go outside to get your lymphatic system moving! Click here to see some decongestive exercises you can do indoors as well.