Can you sleep in a lymphedema sleeve?

Lymphedema sleeve

It is a sleevelike apparatus into which you place your affected arm. It forces the fluids back into the lymph system and reduces the swelling. Although using it once or twice a day helps to control the swelling, it will not cure the problem. The doctor will tell you how long to leave your arm in the sleeve and the correct pressure setting. Usually the unit is used at a physical therapy department at a hospital, although some units are about the size of a train case and can be used at home. The doctor can write a prescription for one, and some insurance companies will cover its cost.

Will all the pain, numbness, and tingling sensations eventually disappear? 

Yes, they should. However, some women continue to have symptoms for many months after the operation has healed. Some patients say they have pain radiating from under the arm to the waist when they touch under the armpit. As with other operations, the symptoms are affected by the weather. If you have unusual sensations, discuss them with your doctor. Some people feel pain in the breast that was removed. Doctors are not sure why this phantom pain occurs, but it does exist. It is not imaginary.

Will I get full muscle strength back in my arm? 

That depends upon the operation which has been performed. In some radical mastectomies, you may be limited in the strength of certain motions and feel some permanent muscle weakness.

Will I have trouble sleeping? 

Some women do have trouble sleeping on the side of the operation. Others say that they cannot wear their prosthesis to bed because the elastic in the bra is too tight (you can get a "sleeping brassiere" which is much softer and more comfortable to wear). Some women described the feeling as like being in a cast, saying it is difficult to sleep because it is hard to find a comfortable position. Others talk about the difficulty of lying flat on their backs because of the pulling sensation. Yet others experience very little difficulty with this problem.

Lymphoedema and compression garments

When can I expect all the stiffness, heaviness, and tautness to be gone? 

As with most surgery, you shouldn't expect it all to be gone in a month. You may have to exercise many more weeks before the stiffness eases up, and you may, as with other surgery, feel some recurrent stiffness and pulling. If by 6 weeks after you have had the operation, when you are fully healed with all the stitches out, you don't have the full range of motion, you should tell your doctor or nurse. They may order additional exercises.

When can I go back to doing my regular work? 

Again, this depends upon the extent of your operation and your own personal condition. You should discuss this with your doctor before you go home from the hospital. Most doctors recommend early resumption of work, including household chores and office duties.

Can I continue with sports such as bowling, golf, tennis, skiing, and swimming? 

You can certainly go back to them, but you should check with your doctor as to when you can take up active sports again. Swimming is very good exercise for breast patients, and there are many styles of bathing suits which you can use.


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