A Lymphie’s Guide to the Workplace

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Ever since I graduated from college I’ve had the standard 9-5ish desk job. Translation = I spend at least 8 hours a day sitting at a desk. At one point it was more like 10 hours, but thankfully currently it’s a pretty solid 8.

We’ve all heard about the health hazards of sitting, but why is it harmful for lymphedema (particularly lower extremity lymphedema)? As I’ve mentioned before, the lymphatic system is twice the size of the cardiovascular system yet does not have it’s own pump (the cardiovascular system has the heart). So, the lymphatic system relies on help from outside sources: this help primarily comes from muscle movement that pushes the lymph through the body and gravity (when used to your advantage) encourages lymph fluid to be drained.

I’ve found that sitting has three major negative effects on lymph fluid flow:

  1. Creates blockages: One of the largest collections of lymph nodes are found in the groin. When you sit, the lymph nodes in your groin are compressed and a bent hose effect inhibits the flow of lymph fluid from the legs to the stomach (you know when you bend a hose and the water stops flowing? this is a similar idea).
  2. Gravity, gravity, gravity: When you sit, gravity works against any chance your lymph fluid had at getting from your toes to your stomach.
  3. Prolongs immobility: This last one is quite simple–when you’re sitting, you’re not moving. The more you move, the more you help lymph fluid flow through your body.

Through my years in a desk job, I’ve learned a thing or two about how best to manage my lymphedema. It has certainly been a game of trial and error (I seem to improve my approach with each new job) and I have yet to perfect my toolbox. So, please share your ideas! For now, below are one lymphie’s best advice for navigating a desk job:

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