A lymphedema leg pillow can help improve your body’s circulation and help decrease swelling. Elevating your legs is the first step to improving your comfort!
What is lymphedema?
The first step to understanding why a lymphedema leg pillow can help decrease swelling is to understand what lymphedema actually is. Normally, the lymphatic system is supposed to transport lymph (a clear fluid) through the lymphatic vessels. Eventually, this fluid passes through the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes filter, trap and fight off bacteria and other disease-causing agents. The fluid is then re-absorbed back into your body.
Lymphedema occurs when there is a disruption in this process. When there is some sort of disruption in the lymphatic system, there can be an excessive buildup of fluid in your limbs. This can occur because of trauma, infection, radiation, or a surgery.
Signs and symptoms of lymphedema include:
- Swelling on the top of your foot or back of your hand
- Decrease in your ability to move your joints
- Decreased flexibility
- Swelling on only one side of your body
- Swelling is worse with inactivity
- Feeling a dull, heavy sensation in your limb
- Having a feeling of fullness in your limb
What is a lymphedema leg pillow?
A leg pillow for lymphedema can help to improve your body’s circulation through leg elevation. While standing or sitting, gravity pulls fluid down towards your feet. If there is any complication in your lymph system, your body may not be able to pump the fluid back up your leg against the pull of gravity.
Elevating your legs on a lymphedema leg pillow will counter the effects of gravity by making it easier for fluid to flow back up your leg. By resting with your legs elevated for 15-20 minutes each day, you make it easier for fluid to flow back up your leg, away from your feet.
While you are elevating, be sure to move your ankle around as much as possible. Your calf muscle acts as a pump that pushes fluid back up your leg. Some simple exercise that use your calf muscle in this way are ankle pumps and clockwise/counterclockwise ankle circles. Try performing 30 repetitions of each of these exercises to help pump fluid out of your feet. Performing these simple movements while you elevate will increase the effectiveness of your lymphedema leg pillow.
A lymphedema leg pillow will have contours to cradle your calf and lower legs. This takes the pressure off of any tender spots in your leg. It is the most comfortable way to enjoy your time relaxing and elevating your legs.
Consistently using a lymphedema leg pillow is not only an important way to manage lymphedema, but it also gives you some much deserved relaxation.
-Hillary Blare, Doctor of Physical Therapy