Gardening is an activity enjoyed by all kinds of people, from the very young to their eldest elders. It doesn’t discriminate, even if you’re at risk for lymphedema. Instead of giving up your garden, consider ways to avoid triggering lymphedema symptoms. We’ll get you started with a few gardening tips to prevent lymphedema problems.
What is Lymphedema?
Gardening is a hobby that can challenge your body and your brain, depending on how you approach it. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your plants just because you’re at risk for lymphedema. Gardening with lymphedema is much like doing anything else with lymphedema, you simply need to modify your approach to your landscape.
Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of fluid just beneath the skin. It’s most common in arms and legs, but can appear anywhere on the body. Some people have lymphedema because they were born with it, but many others develop the condition as a result of lymph node removal or damage during cancer treatment.
Left untreated, lymphedema can result in severe infections, cellulitis or fibrosis under the skin. There is a risk of developing lymphedema while gardening for at-risk populations, but there are also safe ways to approach the soil.
Here are a few of our favorite lymphedema gardening tips:
Wear properly fitting garden attire. From gloves to boots, everything needs to fit just so to avoid creating blisters or constriction if swelling were to start. Wearing head to toe coverings is an important step, since even an insect sting or a puncture wound from a rose bush could trigger lymphedema.
Keep your compression garments clean and dry. The best way to avoid problems when wearing compression garments in the garden is to monitor them for cleanliness and dryness. Dirty or wet garments can invite lymphedema, so change that gear immediately if you notice it’s not right.
Mind the weather. If it’s very cold or hot, you should severely limit your time in the garden. Cold weather can cause skin to chap or rebound sweating; more than about 15 minutes in the heat is an equally troublesome trigger.
Plan your garden work ahead of time. One of the most important things to consider with lymphedema is that it’s best to take your exercise in spurts. Plan your activities ahead of time so you can break them up into smaller tasks that allow you to rest in between. Remember to get help with any heavy lifting or strenuous work, like tilling or digging in hard soil.
Do a variety of activities. Repetition can lead to lymphedema, so mix it up. Plant a few seedlings, next go prune a bush, then add some compost to your potted plants. You don’t need to complete larger tasks all at once. You can instead rotate through a circuit of “must dos” to lower your chances of developing lymphedema.