Complex Therapy Physical alone or Associated with Strengthening Exercises in Patients with Lymphedema after Breast Cancer Treatment: a Controlled Clinical Trial

Document Type : Research Articles


Department of Gynecology, Federal University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.


Objective: To compare a complex physical therapy (CPT) protocol alone or combined with complex physical
therapy muscle more strength training (CPT+ST) in patients with lymphedema after breast cancer treatment regarding
strength and limb muscle volume. Methods: In this controlled clinical trial, consecutive patients treated from breast
cancer from April 2014 to December 2015 were allocated in two groups, the CPT group 1 and the CPT+ST group 2,
that performed CPT associated with muscle strengthening. Patients in the CPT group 1 received the routine protocol of
care, consisting of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), multilayer bandage compression therapy, skin care and regular
exercises. Patients CPT+ST performed, 2 sets of 10 repetitions exercises at 40% of maximal voluntary contraction the
first week, increasing to 3 sets with 10 repetitions during the second and third weeks, 3 sets with 15 repetitions, for 8
weeks, 50 minutes per session, twice per week. Strength and muscle volume were analyzed. Result: In the study period,
42 patients were enrolled, 22 in the CPT group 1 and 20 in the CPT+ST group 2. Only 36 completed treatment. Both
groups showed similar increases in the range of movement in: shoulder flexion, extension, adduction, abduction and
external rotation. Internal rotation showed less improvement in CPT+ST group 2 (p = 0,034). Strength improvement
was similar between groups. The CPT+ST group 2 seemed to have a greater volume in the upper limb when compared
to CPT group 1, but it was not possible to prove any significant difference (p = 0.555). Conclusion: There was no
difference of muscular limb volume between the two interventions. This means that strengthening exercises can be
performed by patients with lymphedema safely, without the risk of increasing upper limb volume with edema.


Main Subjects