Lymphedema and Manual Decongestive Therapy
Lymphedema is swelling that occurs when lymph fluid can’t flow normally and builds up in a part of the body, often in the arm or leg. Primary Lymphedema is a genetic condition, while Secondary Lymphedema occurs in parts of the body where lymph nodes have been removed or damaged.
Lymphedema can be caused by:
Symptoms of lymphedema can vary depending on the grade or stage, and may include:
Unfortunately, some damage to the lymph system is permanent and the effects are lifelong. Treatments for lymphedema are intended to:
Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is considered the gold standard for lymphedema treatment. It is a combination of manual lymph drainage (massage),taping, cupping, myofascial release, compression bandaging and garments, skin care, and exercises. These therapies are managed by a trained therapist. The therapist gives many treatments over a short time to help clear most of the swelling, then you can continue the program at home to keep the swelling down.
When lymphedema has progressed in severity, CDT has two main phases:
Phase I CDT is all about getting the extra lymph out of the part of the body to reduce visible swelling and other symptoms of lymphedema. Although treatment plans are tailored to the individual, phase I CDT generally involves seeing your lymphedema therapist often for sessions that include manual lymphatic drainage (massage), compression bandaging, and exercise. Your therapist will use measurements and/or visual examination of the arm, hand, chest, trunk, or leg to decide when your phase I sessions have done everything they can to reduce your symptoms.
Phase II CDT is about maintaining the results of the initial intensive phase on your own. Although individual treatment plans vary, you can expect to stick with phase II of CDT for many years or even for the rest of your life. Phase II includes getting fitted for and wearing compression garments, then learning how to put them on correctly and care for them. It also includes the self-care steps, and your lymphedema therapist will teach you how to protect your body to reduce risk of flare-ups and infection, know the signs of when treatment may be needed, continue an exercise plan, and sometimes perform self manual lymph drainage.
To book an appointment or for a free 10 minute phone consultation with Sarah Dartiailh, Occupational Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist please call 204-987-9222.