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Pain Management and Lymphedema


Pain is often a lingering aftermath of breast cancer treatment. If this is be due to increasing swelling as fluid accumulates in the affected areas. Often this is an early warning sign of the  lymphedema and/or an infection.

An even more important cause of this pain is a recurrence of the cancer. Therefore when ongoing pain is a problem, it is important to have your physician rule-out the recurrance of cancer as the cause of this problemOnce a cancer recurrence has been ruled out, the best action is to obtain prompt treatment and ongoing management of the lymphedema. Unfortunately for many lymphedema patients, despite their best efforts, pain continues to be a major problem particularly when it involves joints, muscles, and scars.


No one wants to chronically need to take pain medication, and many patients seek alternative “Drug Free Options” that will work for them. The following are suggestions for such remedies for chronic pain.

The effectiveness of these alternatives varies according to individuals. An important part of their success is the ability to take control of his or her pain control method. The key message here, when trying a new method, is to remember, “If it doesn’t feel right for you, STOP! Listen to your body!” Just because a program is recommended by an “expert,” does not necessarily mean this program is right for you.


Pilates are a good exercise.

The following methods have been successful for some individuals in controlling pain. Before starting a new pain control program, particularly if it involves specific foods, supplements, or strenous exercises, consult with your doctor and your lymphedema therapist.

  • Movement-Based Therapies involve physical exercises and practices can help relieve musculoskeletal and joint pain. Examples include: physical therapyyogaPilatesTai chi, and Feldenkrais.
  • Nutritional and Herbal Remedies, which involve food choices and dietary supplements, can help some chronic pain including inflammatory conditions. However, it is very important that you ask your physician before adding supplements such as: an anti-inflammatory dietOmega-3 fatty acidsgingertumeric, or MSM to your diet.
  • Mind-Body Medicine that uses the powers of the mind to produce changes in the body, helps all types of chronic pain. These techniques include meditation, guided imagerybiofeedback, and relaxation.
  • Energy Healing, which involves manipulating the electrical energy emitted by the body’s nervous system. In Chinese medicine this is known as chi and it is said to help pain that lingers even after an injury  has  healed. Controlling pain can also be  as well as pain complicated by trauma, anxiety, or depression. These techniques include: acupunctureacupressureChigong, and  Reiki.
  • Physical Manipulation, which involves hands-on massage or the appropriate movement of painful areas can help relieve musculoskeletal pain, or pain due to adhesions or scars. Examples of these techniques include lymphatic massage, chiropractic, or osteopathy. Caution should be taken not to allow these methods to damage lymphedema affected tissues.
  • Lifestyle changes that involve developing healthy habits at home and at work that will help to relieve all types of: chronic pain, sleep hygienepositive work environmenthealthy relationships, and exercise.

© LymphNotes 2014. This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care professional.

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'Living With Lymphedema' forum.
Category: Living With Lymphedema Updated: 2014-03-31


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