What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of protein-rich fluid in the superficial tissues. It causes swelling, usually in the arm(s) or leg(s) and occasionally in other parts of the body. If left untreated, it can lead to infections, limb “heaviness”, decreased range of motion and strength, and diminished quality of life. Lymphedema caused from idiopathic (unknown) causes is called primary lymphedema. Lymphedema that develops as a result of surgery, radiation, infection or trauma is called secondary or acquired lymphedema. It can develop immediately post-operatively, or weeks, months or even years later.
Signs or symptoms include a full sensation in the limb(s), skin feeling tight, decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle, difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area or ring/wrist watch/bracelet tightness. If you notice persistent swelling, it is important that you seek medical advice as early diagnosis and treatment improves the prognosis and the condition.
How do you treat lymphedema?
Alpha Rehabilitation offers lymphedema treatment. Treatment for lymphedema includes manual lymph drainage (MLD), compression therapy, meticulous skin and nail care and exercises. An evaluation will be completed by one of our physical therapists, Matthew O’Neill or Brittanie Fredrickson. Lisa Bennett, BS, PTA is certified to perform Manual Lymph Drainage through Lerner Lyphedema Services. We provide comprehensive evaluations and care with close communication with referring physicians and other health care team members to ensure a team approach to your manage lymphedema issues.
Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
Manual lymph drainage is a skilled technique involving a gentle massage that improves lymph vessel activity. It is a painless, non-invasive technique that helps redirect the lymph fluid around any areas of blockage into other working lymph vessels that eventually drain into the venous system.
Compression therapy involves application of short-stretch bandages. Either custom-made or over the counter compression garments will also be used once swelling has decreased. This portion of treatment increases the tissue pressure to prevent a relapse of accumulation of lymph fluid.
Skin and Nail Care
Education in meticulous skin and nail care is an extremely important aspect of treatment because infections are very common, and are serious complications of lymphedema.
Exercises prescribed by your therapist can improve range of motion and strength, increase functional mobility, and help increase the movement of lymph fluid in the body.
Benefits of Treatment
- Improved circulation of lymphatics
- Decreased swelling
- Decreased fibrosis (tissue hardening)
- Prevent/eliminate infections
- Reduced pain/discomfort
- Improved physical appearance
Contact your physician for a referral as manual lymph drainage massage is reimbursed by most insurance carriers. Compression bandages are not covered by insurance, but often times compression stockings are covered. Your physician will also rule out any contraindications or precautions.
Contraindications & Precautions
- Thyroid problems
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Acute Bronchitis
- Ruptured Cyst
- Muscle Tear
For general information regarding lymphedema visit:NATIONAL LYMPHEDEMA NETWORK 116 New Montgomery Street, Suite 235 San Francisco, CA 94105 Toll Free Information Line: 800-541-3259 www.lymphnet.or
In Kearney contact:AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY 1-800-ACS-2345 www.cancer.org High Plains Division, Inc. 3808 28th Ave, Suite E Kearney, NE 68845 308-237-7481 1-877-532-7099 Fax 308-236-2016
Please feel free to contact us regarding any questions that you may have concerning our lymphedema program.