Lymphedema is a permanent dysfunction of the lymphatic system that results in chronic swelling, or a build-up of fluid in an affected area. This swelling can affect the arms, legs, trunk, neck, and/or head. Lymphedema does not necessarily result from an injury or surgery, like traditional swelling. Lymphedema has different qualities than regular injury swelling and does not improve with elevation.
With traditional swelling the fluid is filtered by the lymph nodes (“pea-sized” glands spread throughout the body) which filters out the materials the body needs. Your body then dumps the rest of the material into the venous system which then leaves your body when you use the bathroom through your urine. In Lymphedema, the waste materials get stuck and the lymphatic fluid cannot move freely to be disposed because the fluid associated with lymphedema contains not just water and blood, but fat cells, dead viruses/bacteria/fungi, and a high degree of large proteins. This can lead to infection if not properly treated. Even though lymphedema cannot be cured, we do have a way to treat and manage it effectively!
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a special massage technique performed by a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) to assist in moving the trapped lymph fluid from the affected area to another part of the body where there are healthy, functioning lymph nodes. Your CLT will teach you how to manage your lymphedema and help you find the right compression garments so you can take the wheel and master your swelling. At Armworks Hand Therapy, we are dedicated to helping you understand your lymphedema and provide you with the tools so you can manage your symptoms in order to live your best life! This technique is very specific, so you want to make sure you are seeing one of our two licensed CLT therapists to ensure the correct process is followed.
We look forward to working with you!
For more information on lymphedema and chronic swelling, please visit our website. If you would like to be evaluated and treated by one of our CLTs, request an appointment here.