Lymphedema Physical Therapy
What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of lymphatic fluid within the tissue.
If the lymphatic system has been impaired, the amount of fluid is greater than the capacity of the lymphatic drainage to transport it away. The buildup of fluid leads to swelling.
Lymphedema is a chronic condition, which will worsen over time if left untreated.
Lymphedema is classified into two categories:
Primary lymphedema is caused by structural impairments present from birth.
Secondary lymphedema occurs when a healthy lymphatic system has been injured, resulting in change. Some, not all, contributing factors leading to lymphedema include:
- Surgical removal of lymph nodes
- Radiation therapy to the breast and underarm
- Trauma to the area of the body containing lymph nodes
- Chronic Venous Insufficiency; if left untreated can progress into a combined venous/lymphatic disorder
- Sedentary lifestyle
Early onset signs and symptoms of lymphedema
- Unexplained heaviness or aching
- Visible, persistent swelling in the limb or trunk
- Tingling in the limb or limb pain
- Clothing or jewelry fitting tighter
- Skin feels taut
If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, you should seek medical advice to confirm the diagnosis and to see if a physical therapy referral is indicated.
What is lymphedema physical therapy?
EvergreenHealth therapists are certified lymphedema therapists with specialized training.
They will begin with an evaluation that includes baseline limb circumference measurements that can track changes in swelling and will also measure your joint range of motion and strength.
You and your physical therapist will discuss an individualized treatment plan that may include:
- Skin care education.
- Manual lymphatic massage/drainage. This is a special massage technique that encourages the flow of lymph fluid out of your arm or leg.
- Exercise. Strength is important to do everyday tasks, such as carrying groceries. The latest research demonstrates that a gradual progressive exercise program under the supervision of a certified lymphedema therapist will not worsen lymphedema.
- Compression bandaging. Proper bandaging of the entire limb encourages the lymph fluid to flow back toward the trunk of your body. Your therapist will provide education and demonstrate how to apply the bandaging correctly.
- Compression garments. These are sleeves worn on your arm or leg that encourage the flow of lymph fluid out of the effective limb. Your therapist will take measurements that ensure the sleeve is the proper fit as well as show you techniques on how to correctly don/doff the garment.
- A home management program.
To begin lymphedema physical therapy
A physician referral is required for lymphedema therapy. Ask your provider to complete and sign our referral form.
You can drop off the referral form at our office [Directions] or fax it to (425) 899-3670.