If you’re noticing some swelling in the ankles or feet, take some time out and put your feet up. You’ll do yourself and your lymphatic system a great favour.
Unlike the circulatory system, your lymphatic system is not influenced by the pumping action of your heart. Instead it relies on the breath, the gentle squeezing action of working muscles and the pumping action of specialised parts of the lymphatic vessels themselves, known as lymphangions. Lymphangions “pump” with a frequency of, on average, 10 beats per minute.
Here are some easy activities to add to your sit-down-with-feet-up time, to really give that lymph system a boost.
The action of breathing and the vacuum that is created in the thorax with each breath contributes to the movement of lymph through the lymphatic vessels. Deep, belly breathing is highly beneficial not only for the pumping action for your lymph; it also helps restore calm to the whole of the body. And reducing stress levels also helps improve the movement of lymph.
Ankle and calf work-out
If you happen to have a theraband handy, grab it! If not, a yoga belt or towel folded length-ways will work just as well. Lie down, put your feet up and add some gentle calf stretching and ankle-strengthening exercises, as follows:
- Lie flat on your back.
- Raise one foot and drape the band/belt/towel over the ball of your foot.
- Grasp the dangling ends and adjust the positioning of your hands to suit your flexibility and comfort levels as you gently straighten your leg.
- Slowly, point and flex your foot.
- Add some slow ankle rolls one way, than an equal number the other way.
The key is to make these movements slow and notice the effect on your lower legs.
Don’t overdo it though. Start with 5-10 of each on each leg. Be guided by what you notice with the swelling in your ankles and feet. (You can check out my short demo video here.)
Lie down and pop your feet up on a pillow, just so they are slightly elevated. Now, do nothing! Have a snooze. Give yourself permission to take a short break … or a long one. 😉
You can get more tips on how to look after your lymphatic system here.
Note: if you have persistent swelling and are concerned please check in with your Doctor or health care provider.