Chronic Swelling & Lymphedema – 4 Key Points
What makes me feel like an old dog is simply the fact that I feel like I should’ve known about this information a long time ago (it’s that impressive and powerful!).
At the same time, it makes me wonder how many other PTs have no idea about these treatment concepts… and how many PTs have no idea that there’s a huge opportunity for us to help our clients that we’ve probably been completely missing, despite our best efforts to help our clients.
Without, further ado, let’s dive right into my new tricks! (If you’d prefer the video, just scroll to the bottom…)
4 Key Points About Chronic Swelling & Lymphedema
->> Key Point #1: a LOT of people are struggling with chronic swelling! How many people do you know who still have sock lines on their legs after they take their socks off? These folks are dealing with some level of ongoing swelling in their legs. Now that I’m learning more about chronic swelling, I’m starting to realize just how many people (older adults especially) are dealing with swelling on a daily basis.
->> Key Point #2: how many of our standard “orthopedic” clients are slowed down by chronic swelling and pain. A good example of this is the client with persistent knee pain following surgery (let’s say they had a total knee replacement 6-12 months ago). After completing the typical post-surgery rehab, a good chunk of people with be stuck with ongoing knee swelling, tightness and pain. And up until now, I really didn’t understand the importance of clearing the swelling to allow for optimal healing. If you think about, it sounds really simple: of course chronic swelling will cause the knee to be tight and painful, because the blood and nutrients can’t flow in/out of the damaged tissue!
->> Key Point #3: the importance of breaking down scar tissue to improve swelling and edema. An excellent example of this concept is the female client referred for lymphedema in her arm following breast cancer treatment. On the surface, all you need to do is get the lymph fluid moving out of the arm and back into the lymphatic vessels (and ultimately back to the veins). However, one of the reasons the fluid isn’t moving very well is that scar tissue is putting pressure on the vessels. That’s why breaking down scar tissue is so important when it comes to managing swelling and lymphedema. If you go back to our person with persistent swelling of the knee, there may be an issue with scar tissue surrounding the knee. Or, there may even be a pre-existing issue with scar tissue near the groin or abdomen. And treating this scar tissue can lead to dramatic improvements with swelling and/or edema.
->> Key Point #4: chronic swelling is NOT a part of “normal aging”! I could write an entire article about the overuse of the term “normal aging” and how it’s often code for “I don’t know how to help you with your problem, so you just have to accept it”… but let’s not go there today! Instead, let’s just realize that ongoing swelling in the legs, arms and abdomen is telling us that something isn’t working quite the way it should. It may mean that there’s an issue with an overloaded lymphatic system, or that there’s a traffic jam in some area of your body. Or it may mean that there’s an underlying issue with the cardiovascular system. You get the idea. For today, I don’t think you need to understand the underlying cause(s). Rather, I’d simply like you to understand that there just might be help available to you if you struggle with chronic swelling.
That being said, if you’d like some help figuring out the ROOT CAUSE of your swelling, and you’d like to know if one of our 2 swelling/lymphedema specialists can help you reduce your swelling, please reach out to our team at your convenience.
We’re more than happy to help you arrange a free 30-minute consultation with Jennifer or Kimberlee, so you can learn more about your options. To take advantage of this offer, simply give us a call at the clinic at (509) 892-5442 or shoot me a quick email at Luke@GordonPhysicalTherapy.com.
In future blogs/videos, I’ll be sharing some simple tips to help you reduce swelling and edema at home.
Below is the video version of this blog, with expanded content. Enjoy 😊
– Luke Gordon, DPT (Doctor of Physical Therapy/Owner of Gordon PT)