Throw Cold Water on Your Lymphedema

Cold Water Tip Showerhead

If you are living with lymphedema (LE), you know that heat is our kryptonite. It expands our blood vessels which increases the amount of fluid pushed into our tissues, straining our impaired lymphatic system and causing swelling. If we don’t manage this swelling our lymphedema progresses, causing more pain and creating more vulnerability to infection.

In my case, LE has affected my lower limbs. Since my first lymphedema symptom when I was 13 and my left foot began to swell, I adopted a strategy. This strategy has helped to reverse the impact of heat on my body and to slow the progression of the disease. My secret: I end all my showers with cold water on my LE-affected areas.

After washing myself with warm water and soap, I direct the showerhead to my legs and gradually turn the temperature down, letting the cold water cool me for about a minute.  

The cold water immediately makes my blood and lymphatic vessels constrict, helping to force the lymph fluid back toward my heart. It shocks my lymphatic system awake. 

When I get out of the shower, I elevate my legs above my heart for about 10 minutes to give my lymphatic system even more time to catch up.

I began using this trick years before I knew I had something called lymphedema. I simply knew that cold water and elevation, especially following a warm shower, felt good. When I carelessly abandoned my routine, I soon experienced full onset of my lymphedema. My left leg swelled up like a column, and I entered what they call “stage two” lymphedema.

Since that time, I have reduced the swelling and prevented the lymphedema from progressing further through the use of compression garments 24 hours a day, regular exercise, and cold water at the end of my showers followed by elevation.

In addition to giving your lymphatic system a boost, health experts suggest that cold water may energize you, reduce stress, and even make your hair and nails healthier!

Ideally, this routine should be adopted gradually, and with care not to shock systems with heart or immune issues. But simply spraying cold water on your affected body parts should bring relief. And relief from the pain and stress of lymphedema is what we hope for every day.

Disclaimer: Britta is not a medical professional or authority. The words she writes are from her own experiences and knowledge. The advice she provides does not come with a promise of results. Consult a physician or medical professional, before employing any strategies, advice or techniques depicted on this blog.

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