What is Lymphedema?
The lymphatic system collects lymph (excess fluid, proteins, and other substances) from the body tissues and carries them back to the bloodstream. Lymph is moved slowly through lymphatic vessels and is passed through the lymph nodes. Swelling (“edema”) may occur when the lymph increases in the body tissues. Lymphedema occurs when the normal drainage of fluid is disrupted by a blockage or a cut in the lymph nodes in the groin area or the armpit. Lymphedema can be a hereditary condition, but it’s most commonly the result of blockages caused by infection, cancer, and scar tissue from radiation therapy or the surgical removal of lymph nodes.
Our dedicated team of Physical Therapists will serve as an important member of your health care team and will work closely with you to design a treatment program to help control the swelling and meet your goals for returning to your activities. In the early stages of lymphedema, when the swelling is mild, it can often be managed by compression garments, exercise, and elevation of the affected limb to encourage lymph flow. For more severe swelling, the physical therapist may use a treatment called “complete decongestive therapy.”
Med Center Therapy accomplishes complete decongestive therapy with the use of NormaTec, which is the most advanced pneumatic compression device available for the treatment of lymphedema and other conditions causing fluid buildups in the extremities. NormaTec Pulse Technology exhibits an inflation-deflation pattern, which is a major technological improvement that goes well beyond simple intermittent compression.
How Can Physical Therapy Help With Lymphedema Management?
Initially, our Therapists will use the available technologies and their expertise to reduce swelling and monitor the size of your affected limb throughout the treatment process. Once the limb has decreased to the desired size, your physical therapist will provide you with help and guidance to begin taking over your own care by:
- Developing a safe and sensible exercise program that will increase your physical fitness without unnecessarily straining your affected arm or leg
- Updating your compression garments to ensure proper fitting, working with you to find the type of garment that best meets your needs
- Educating you about proper diet to decrease fluid buildup in your tissues and skin care to reduce the risk of infection