How Physiotherapy Treats Lymphedema

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“Lymphedema” isn’t a word you hear everyday, but those who have the condition know its meaning all too well. Lymphedema causes swelling in the legs, arms, head, neck, trunk, or genitals due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluid.

Secondary lymphedema is most commonly caused by trauma, surgery, radiation, or infection. Primary lymphedema is caused by a defect in the lymphatic system. Usually, primary lymphedema develops before age 35.

4 Signs of Lymphedema

The warning signs of lymphedema are hard to miss and include:

  • A full/heavy feeling in the arms and/or legs
  • Persistent swelling
  • Skin that feels tight
  • Compromised flexibility in the wrist, ankle, or hand

Another indicator of lymphedema is one’s rings/watches/bracelets feeling tighter as a result of swelling.

What to Do If You Have Lymphedema Warning Signs

Do you have one or more of the warning signs of lymphedema? If so, your task is simple: Contact your physician to set up an evaluation. Be prepared to discuss these symptoms with your physician and to ask specifically if lymphedema could be a cause. The earlier you can get lymphedema treated, the better.

5 Skin Care Tips for Lymphedema Patients

If you have lymphedema or are at risk for it, good skin care is vital for you. Here are 5 skin care tips to help you manage/prevent the condition:

1. Steer clear of saunas, hot tubs, and steam baths.

2. Wear a compression garment when travelling.

3. If your physiotherapist or doctor advises you to, wear a compression garment when working out.

4. Exercise the part(s) of your body affected by lymphedema (your arms or legs). A physiotherapy program can help you do this.

5. Get to a healthy weight. A physiotherapist will help you determine what your ideal weight is as well as help you lose excess weight and keep it off.

Physiotherapy: An Effective Treatment for Lymphedema

Currently there is no cure for lymphedema but there are effective treatments like physiotherapy. Physiotherapy is an ideal treatment option for many people with lymphedema because it is an exercise-based therapy that can reduce swelling and other negative side effects of the condition.

Physiotherapists treat lymphedema strategically. Lymphedema: physio can help named a few ways physiotherapists treat lymphedema:

  • Patient evaluation in collaboration with the patient’s physician.
  • Skin care education.
  • A home exercise program to improve lymphatic drainage, increase or maintain range of motion and strength of the affected area, and improve cardiovascular fitness.”
  • Compression garment education.
  • “Manual lymphatic drainage that will reduce and/or control the swelling. A comprehensive program will include compression pumps, bandaging techniques, and massage, or a combination of therapies.”

Are you at risk for lymphedema, or have you been diagnosed with the condition already? If so, contact your physician or a physiotherapist. The physiotherapy team at Elite Sports Injury Physiotherapy Clinics would be happy to speak with you about your concerns.  

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