Lymphedema is a condition of swelling of the tissues in the arm, chest, leg or trunk. It occurs because lymph nodes have been removed or damaged, causing impaired flow of lymphatic fluid. Without treatment, the condition can worsen and create an environment for chronic infection and increased swelling in the affected area.
Lymphedema is usually associated with breast cancer, but can occur in any patient who has had lymph nodes damaged or removed.
Our physical therapists and lymphedema specialists give patients a series of exercises to strengthen the muscles, regain range of motion, and provide a gentle skin stretch. Aerobic activity may also be included to increase activity tolerance.
If you have lymphedema, we wrap the affected limb with a special, short stretch bandage that can increase lymphatic flow. These bandages work best with muscle contraction; therefore, it is important to perform movement with the bandages on throughout the day. Patients are also educated on self-bandaging. Once swelling has stabilized, we fit patients for the appropriate compression garment(s).
Manual lymphatic drainage is a specific technique that consists of a gentle skin stretch to improve absorption and movement of lymphatic fluid. We educate you on self-techniques and encourage you to perform them daily for lymphedema management.
Compression pumps are used in certain situations to assist in the reduction of swelling. Home pumps are available for patients who respond well with a decrease in swelling.
In addition, we provide patient education for self-management. Our physical therapists are trained to provide treatment for lymphedema and for issues that may occur after breast surgery, such as a decrease in strength and range of motion. We give each patient a specific program to address his or her individual needs.