Understanding the Benefits of Lymphedema Therapy
Lymphedema is swelling in the arms or legs that happens due to a blockage in the lymphatic system. The vessels or nodes become damaged and/or abnormal, leading to pain, weakness, and decreased range of motion.
Symptoms of lymphedema
With lymphedema, you might have:
- Weakness in your arms or legs;
- Swelling in your arms, legs, hands, fingers, shoulders, or chest;
- Joint pain;
- Feeling of heaviness in your arms or legs;
- Strange feeling of your skin – tighter, thicker, or harder than normal in the affected area;
- Inability to move your wrists or ankles as freely as normal;
- Repeated infections in your arms or legs (if you have chills or fever, and your affected part is red or swollen, then you might have an infection).
How does a physical therapy help?
Our staff at Action Physical Therapy will work closely with you so we can come up with a treatment program that will help you control the swelling.
If you’re in the early stage of lymphedema, we will design a treatment for you that will include exercising, compression garments, and elevation of the affected limb in order to encourage lymph flow.
If your swelling is severe, we will prepare for you a treatment called “complete decongestive therapy”. This type of therapy has 4 parts:
- Manual lymphatic drainage – light form of a massage that improves the lymph flow;
- Exercise – helps to pump lymph out of the affected area;
- Skin care – your skin must be kept clean and moisturized so you can prevent infections.
Effects of Complete Decongestive Therapy
- Diuretic, analgesic, relaxation;
- Increased lymph production;
- Improved performance of the lymphatic system;
- Soften connective tissue;
- Re-routes fluid from the affected area.
How Long Does the Lymphedema Treatment Last?
Usually, this treatment has two phases: active and maintenance. The duration of the treatment depends on the amount of swelling and the tissue firmness. In most cases, the active phase lasts up to 3 months with complete decongestive sessions 4-5 times a week, while the length of the maintenance phase differs from one patient to another and includes wearing elastic compression garments during the day and bandages with foam at night. We will teach you how to do self-manual lymphatic drainage and will also show you some exercises you can do at home.
At Action Physical Therapy, our focus is to help you increase your strength and range of motion and flexibility, decrease your pain and swelling, and to restore the overall function and improve the quality of your life.