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6 Simple Tips to Reduce Chronic Swelling & Edema
August 13, 2020

Last week’s blog/video was all about 4 “new tricks” I’ve picked up lately from our 2 lymphedema specialists at the clinic. In that article, I explained some valuable lessons that can help many of our clients with persistent swelling and pain. And just in case you missed it, here’s a quick recap:

First, the amount of people struggling with chronic swelling and edema is staggering! Second, many of our current clients with orthopedic issues (like back pain, knee pain and shoulder pain) are experiencing slower healing times due to excess swelling. Third, breaking down scar tissue is extremely important when it comes to reducing swelling and/or edema, especially for clients following cancer treatment. And fourth, chronic swelling is NOT a part of “normal aging”. So please don’t settle if you don’t have to!

Now that we know a few more fun facts about swelling and edema, let’s talk about some simple things you can do at home to reduce the fluid build-up in your legs, abdomen and arms. Before I share the 6 things you can do at home to improve the swelling, let me also say this: the goal with these tips is to achieve proper flow in both the veins and the lymph vessels. These 2 systems are intertwined and are vital to optimal health. Now, let’s look at those tips!

*If you’d like to skip to the video version, just scroll down to the bottom 😊

6 Simple Tips to Reduce Swelling & Edema

->> Tip #1: Decrease your salt intake. As you can imagine, a diet heavy in salt will cause you to retain water. And when you have too much fluid in your system already, extra salt isn’t making things easier. So consider decreasing how much salt you ingest. And also try to avoid processed and boxed foods, which are typically high in sodium.

->> Tip #2: Increase your water intake. This might sound weird after reading that first tip, but let me explain: while you don’t want the water to get stuck in your system by binding to salt, you still want plenty of it flowing through your system. Keep in mind that consuming drinks with caffeine, sugar and/or alcohol aren’t helpful (even though the main ingredient is water). I know… rough news!

->> Tip #3: Decrease your caffeine. Not only should you NOT increase your consumption of caffeinated beverages, you should consider reducing your caffeine intake if possible. The reason is this: caffeine binds to water in your body, and your body can’t absorb the water properly. And if the body doesn’t have enough water to work with, it will start to hoard more water. As you can imagine, this makes the swelling worse!

->> Tip #4: Increase your movement and “venous pumping”. Unlike your arteries, your veins don’t have any blood pressure to push the blood back towards your heart. Instead, these vessels are lined with one-way valves. When you “pump” your muscles with physical activity, the blood in the veins gets squeezed back towards your heart. Simple exercises like ankle pumps and pulling a knee to your chest repeatedly can have a very positive impact on the fluid in your veins. In addition, you have a lot of lymph vessels surrounding your abdomen and digestive system. Any comfortable movement to these regions can be very helpful with reducing swelling and lymphedema.

->> Tip #5: Elevate your legs. Thinking back to those one-way valves in your veins, you can probably imagine why elevating your legs can help clear some of the swelling back into your normal circulation. Simply elevating your legs above your heart for 30-60 minutes at a time (twice/day) can be very helpful.

->> Tip #6: Consider a home compression device. While many people are familiar with compression garments, such as compression socks, even I didn’t know that there were compression devices available for home use. These pneumatic devices are pretty fancy and very effective at times! They feature multiple chambers that sequentially fill up with air pressure, pumping the fluid back towards your heart. I hope that makes sense… it’s a bit hard to describe!

Okay, those are the 6 tips I wanted to share with you today. I hope they help you realize that you don’t have to just “live with” chronic swelling or accept it just because “you’re getting older” (aren’t we all!). And like I mentioned last week, we have 2 amazing therapists at the clinic who can help you navigate any issues related to chronic swelling and lymphedema. If you’d like to speak with either of them or arrange a free consultation, please call the clinic at (509) 892-5442 or reach out to me directly via my email at 

Here’s the video 😊 – Luke Gordon, DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy/Owner of Gordon PT)


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