What is Lymphedema and Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

A Blockage in the Lymph Node Drainage System

Lymphedema is the tissue swelling caused by an accumulation of protein-rich fluid that’s usually drained through the lymphatic system. Lymphedema occurs when there is a blockage or damage to the lymphatic system, making it difficult for lymphatic fluid to drain properly. Most commonly lymphedema affects the arms or legs, but can also occur in the chest wall, abdomen, neck, and genitals.

There are two types of lymphedema, primary lymphedema which is abnormal development of the lymph system that can happen at birth or later on in life and more commonly secondary lymphedema which occurs when the lymph system may be damaged or blocked by infection, injury, cancer, removal of lymph nodes, radiation to the affected area, or scar tissue from radiation therapy or surgery.

Lymphedema is chronic and progressive although a cure has not been found yet, options are available to manage lymphedema symptoms. Some options include but are not limited to compression garments, compression devices/pumps, manual lymph drainage massages (MLD), and decongestive exercises.

Manual therapies such as Manual Lymphatic Drainage are the standard treatment to encourage the movement of lymphatic fluid and reduce symptoms of lymphedema. The therapy you receive may be a combination of multiple modalities depending on each patient’s needs as well as the type and stage of lymphedema. The goal is to help patients continue with daily living activities, decrease pain, and to improve their ability to move the affected limb/area.

At Apex Physical Therapy & Wellness our Manual Lymph therapists will use a gentle hands-on technique used to encourage the natural drainage of lymph fluid from the tissues. By utilizing a gentle pumping motion, your therapist will help move and reroute areas of fluid and trapped toxins in the affected area, so they flow more freely within the lymphatic system. Depending on where your lymphedema is, will determine the specific treatment plan your therapist will give.

Ready to start therapy? 

If you’re ready to start therapy to get your life back, contact us today and book your first session.

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