Brown, J.C., Troxel, A.B., & Schmitz, K.H. (2012). Safety of weightlifting among women with or at risk for breast cancer-related lymphedema: Musculoskeletal injuries and health care use in a weightlifting rehabilitation rrial. The Oncologist, 17(8), 1120–1128.doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2012-0035
To compare the risk of musculoskeletal injury in women with or at risk for lymphedema between a weight-lifting program and standard care
Women were randomized to receive twice weekly weight lifting or standard care for one year. Patients in both groups attend one hour of education on lymphedema. Women in the weight-lifting group received twice weekly group-based supervised instruction on proper biomechanics. Sessions lasted 90 minutes and included upper- and lower-body exercises and 10 minutes of aerobics and static stretching. If there were no changes in arm symptoms at a given weight, the weight was increased by 1 lb. There was no upper limit on maximum weight lifted over one year. Patients with lymphedema wore a custom-fitted compression garment during exercise. Data were compared to weight-lifting injury rate data among a general population.
The study took place in the eastern United States.
The study has clinical applicability for late effects and survivorship.
The study used a radonmized controlled trial design with epidemiological analysis comparison.
Strength was better in the weight-lifting group at 12 months compared to usual care controls (p = 0.03). Patients with lymphedema had greater odds of a musculoskeletal injury compared to controls (OR 19.9, 95% CI 5.1–77, p = 0.001). Patients at risk for lymphedema in the weight-lifting group did not have higher odds of injury. Injury rate per 1,000 reported exercise sessions among patients who did the weight-lifting was less than weight-lifting injury rates among a comparison group of premenopausal women. Six women in the weight-lifting group reported shoulder injuries, one had a wrist injury, and three had lower-body injury. Healthcare use in the control group was not reported.
Weight lifting in women with and at risk for lymphedema appears to be safe, with no more frequent injury rates than those seen in other women; however, musculoskeletal injuries did occur. This points to the need for supervision and communication with professional healthcare providers when delivering a weight-lifting program.
Findings suggest that women with or at risk for lymphedema can safely do weight lifting, although, as with women without these problems, musculoskeletal injuries can occur. It appears that shoulder injuries were most common. These results point to the importance of supervision and monitoring by appropriate professionals during any weight-lifting program.