What is “Lymphedema”?
Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs. Sometimes both arms and both legs swell. It can occur in other parts of the body as well, if lymph nodes have been compromised.
Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of, damage to, or obstruction to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment or surgery. It results from a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling.
A common example of this type of lymphedema is someone who’s gone through breast cancer treatment that involved surgery and radiation. During surgery, it’s very likely that a portion of the lymph nodes were removed. Following radiation, there is now scar tissue present that restricts the flow of the lymph fluid.
There’s no cure for lymphedema, but it can be managed with early diagnosis and diligent care of your affected limb.
True lymphedema is a chronic, progressive disease and affects about 2 million people in the U.S. Its incidence is on the rise due to many life-saving cancer related treatments.
How to Treat Lymphedema & Chronic Swelling
Our lymphedema-trained physical therapists at Gordon PT follow a 4-step approach to helping our clients successfully treat and manage their lymphedema and swelling.
Here are the 4 steps:
->> Step 1: Skin Care and Treatment of any infection including Active Cellulitis
->> Step 2: Exercises that activate the muscle pumping mechanism to help move the fluid
->> Step 3: Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) massage to move the lymph fluid to working pathways and healthy lymph nodes
->> Step 4: Compression Bandaging and/or Compression garments to help keep the lymphedema down, as well as compression devices (such as leg pumps)
2 Important Points About Lymphedema Treatment
There are 2 more important ideas about how to successfully treat and manage lymphedema and chronic swelling:
->> Idea #1: Step 3 of treatment involves what we call MLD (Manual Lymph Drainage). Learning these hands-on techniques takes specialized training, which most PTs simply don’t have.
This is why it’s so important to work with a lymphedema-trained physical therapist for the best chances of success. Take that into consideration if you’re seeking help with treating your lymphedema and/or swelling.
->> Idea #2: There’s a 5th step that’s vital to long-term management of lymphedema/swelling… educating our clients about how to manage their lymphedema and swelling on their own.
This home-management involves a lot of education related to self-massage techniques and any needed compression techniques (wrapping, bandaging, compression devices).
At times, our therapists will also train family members or loved ones on how to help with the MLD techniques and compression options.
Many of our clients with lymphedema and swelling will need our help in the future to manage their swelling, but the more we can help them learn to manage their swelling on their own, the better!
Want to learn more about how our lymphedema-trained physical therapists can help you treat and manage your lymphedema?
Simply call the clinic at (509) 892-5442 to arrange a FREE 30-minute consultation!
During your consultation, one of our lymphedema experts will help you figure out the ROOT CAUSE of your lymphedema and/or swelling, and they’ll explain what successful treatment and management involve.
This is a great place to start if you’d like some help but you’d like more information to help you make a good decision.
Call us today to get started or fill out one of our online forms!