ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Asthmatics Who Quit Smoking May Reverse Lung Damage
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
Know Your Asthma Triggers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Music Therapy For Prehistoric Man?
Garlic Yields Up Its Health Secret
Green Tea May Help Brain Cope With Sleep Disorders
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
New Clues to How Fish Oils Help Arthritis Patients
Fractures in Older Adults Up Death Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis Hits Women Harder
CANCER
Supplement Hampers Thyroid Cancer Treatment
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Researchers ID Genetic Markers for Esophageal Cancer
CAREGIVING
MRSA Infections Spreading to Kids in Community
Rapid Infant Weight Gain Linked to Childhood Obesity
Tainted China Formula Caused High Rate of Kidney Stones in Kids
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Drink a Little Wine, Live a Little Longer
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Potassium-Rich Foods May Cut Stroke, Heart Disease Risk
COSMETIC
Study Evaluates Laser Therapies for Hair Removal
With Psoriasis, the Internet May Offer Hope
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Toothbrushing May Stave Off Heart Woes
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
Poor Blood Sugar Control After Heart Surgery Impacts Outcomes
Drug May Not Help Diabetes-Related Eye Damage
Whole Grains Take a Bite Out of Type 2 Diabetes Risk
DIET, NUTRITION
Eat Up, But Eat Healthy This Holiday Season
Vitamin D Vital for the Heart
'Organic' May Not Mean Healthier
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Air Pollution Exposure May Slow Fetal Growth
Pregnant Rural Women More at Risk
Cats Can Trigger Eczema in Some Infants
EYE CARE, VISION
Cases of Age-Related Farsightedness to Soar
Eye Care Checkups Tied to Insurance Status
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
FITNESS
Mom and Baby Alike May Benefit From Exercise
Almost Two-Thirds of Americans Meet Exercise Guidelines
Run for Your Life
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
New Yogurt May Ease Stomach Ulcers
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
Gum Chewing May Speed Colon Surgery Recovery
GENERAL HEALTH
Have Fun This Summer, But DO Be Careful
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
A Honey of a Sinusitis Treatment
HEAD & NECK
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Using Light Therapy to Silence Harmful Brain Activity
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
Imaging Sheds Light on How Acupuncture Works
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Whole Grains Lower Risk of Heart Failure
Man's Best Friend Helps Mend Broken Hearts
Small Cuts in Salt Intake Spur Big Drops in Heart Trouble
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Dry Weather Boosts Odds of Flu Outbreaks
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
The HPV Vaccine: Preventative Medicine or Human Sacrifice?
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Stomach Germ May Protect Against Asthma
Pool Chemicals Raise Kids Allergy, Asthma Risk
Eating Fish, Breast-Feeding Boost Infant Development
MEN'S HEALTH
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
MENTAL HEALTH
Musicians' Brains Tuned to Emotions in Sound
Keeping a Healthy Holiday Balance
Fear Response May Stem From Protein in Brain
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Before Conceiving, Take Folic Acid for One Full Year
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Better Sleep, Grades Seem to Go Up
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Women Smokers Lose 14.5 Years Off Life Span
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Women Who Run May Benefit From Extra Folic Acid
Add your Article

Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors

(HealthDay News) -- Lifting weights can help prevent flare-ups of lymphedema, a painful swelling of the arm that often occurs after breast cancer surgery, new research shows.

The finding runs counter to what women have been told for years -- that they should avoid stressing the arm during strength training or other exercise because muscle strain can cause lymphedema to worsen.

The study is published in the Aug. 13 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers divided 141 breast cancer survivors who had lymphedema into two groups. One group did twice-weekly weight training using slowly increasing weights for 13 weeks. Afterward, they were told to continue the exercises unsupervised for 39 weeks. The other group was told to maintain their normal exercise and activity regimen.

About 11 percent of the weight-lifting group and 12 percent of the control group had an increase of 5 percent or more in limb swelling, according to the study, not a significant difference.

Yet the weight-lifting group had greater improvements in self-reported severity of lymphedema symptoms, an improvement in upper- and lower-body strength and a lower incidence of lymphedema exacerbations.

About 14 percent of the weight-lifting group experienced a flare-up compared to 29 percent of those in the control group, according to a certified lymphedema specialist who examined the participants.

"We found that twice-weekly, slowly progressive strength training does not increase the likelihood of swelling and decreases the likelihood of flare-ups," said study author Kathryn Schmitz, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

In the past, advice to women about dealing with lymphedema has been confusing, Schmitz noted. Standard advice has been to keep the skin clean and moisturized, be careful when clipping nails, wear compression sleeves to prevent swelling or to do gentle, therapeutic exercises to promote lymphatic drainage.

Earlier epidemiological studies found a link between arm injuries or muscle strain and flare-ups, Schmitz said.

"They were extremely well-meaning guidelines that said to avoid stressing the arm," Schmitz said. "What that translated into was advice to avoid lifting anything like grocery bags, children or even a purse."

Not only did this make life more difficult, the lack of activity meant the arm muscles weakened, making muscle strains and other injuries more likely.

"What I'm suggesting is that if women slowly, progressively make themselves stronger, they will be less likely to overuse the arm because they have trained the arm," Schmitz said.

Up to 62 percent of women treated for breast cancer develop lymphedema, an accompanying editorial noted.

A study in the March 16 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that women who develop lymphedema fare worse than women without the condition and have higher out-of-pocket medical costs after radiation and surgery.

Women with lymphedema report a lower quality of life, higher levels of anxiety and depression, an increased likelihood of chronic pain and fatigue and greater difficulty functioning socially and sexually, according to the study. Lymphedema also boosted two-year, postoperative medical costs.

In an accompanying editorial, Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, a professor in the department of behavioral science at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, noted that making progressive resistance training a standard part of post-cancer care could help to lower those costs and improve women's lives.

"The significance of the study is that women who have had breast cancer surgery or radiation treatment have been told that they shouldn't lift any weight and to avoid repetitive motions. As a result, we have a generation of women who have almost become incapacitated," Demark-Wahnefried said. "They've been leery to lift groceries or their children, or fail to go back to jobs due to the risk of lymphedema. This study helps to lift some of that concern."

For some of the women in the study, the weight-lifting regimen, which was done at YMCAs in the Philadelphia area with fitness instructors who had received a three-day training in lymphedema care, left them feeling fitter than even before they had cancer, Schmitz said.

SOURCES: Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor, epidemiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., professor, department of behavioral science, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; Aug. 13, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine