Lymphedema can be controlled with careful and consistent treatment.
Lymphedema is swelling in one or both arms or legs caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, preventing fluids and proteins gathered from body tissues that would normally be carried into the bloodstream from draining effectively. Lymphedema can be hereditary, but is most commonly the result of blockages caused by infection, cancers, or scar tissues left behind by radiation therapy or the surgical removal of a lymph node. The condition can be controlled with careful and consistent treatment, but it cannot be cured. Exercise, massage, and compression by a trained IRG therapist can all help relieve swelling in the affected limbs.
With your physical therapist, movement of lymph fluid can be promoted through:
- Elevation and specific exercise, with gentle muscle contraction
- Compression garments, pneumatic compression, or proper wrapping with a bandage on the affected limb(s)
- Manual lymph drainage, a massage technique using special hand strokes on the affected limb(s), can gently relieve more severe swelling by moving fluid to healthy lymph nodes, followed by compression bandaging.
At home, a self-care program developed by your therapist may include:
- A safe exercise program, avoiding strain to the affected limbs
- Proper fitting of compression garments, assessed regularly and according to your needs
- Nutritional counseling, encouraging a diet to decrease fluid buildup