Lymphedema is a condition in which excess protein-rich ﬂuid (lymph) collects in tissues under the skin and causes swelling (edema) and sometimes hardening (fibrosis) of the soft tissues.
Depending on its cause, lymphedema can affect any part of the body. It can affect the arms, legs, face and neck, breast and torso, and genitals. Lymphedema is not necessarily painful, but can be uncomfortable. Having lymphedema may put you at risk of serious skin infections called cellulitis or erysipelas. Our Specialist Lymphedema Physiotherapist can help treat this condition with the internationally recognized standard of care Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT).
People have a higher chance of developing lymphedema when they have experienced the following:
Having a large number of lymph nodes removed
Receiving radiation therapy
Having active cancer
Acquiring an infection in the at-risk body part
Trauma to the at-risk body part
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD): A light massage-like skin stretching technique that stimulates the lymphatic system.
Compression: Compression therapy physically resists the internal forces which produce lymph ﬂuid. Well-padded bandaging is initially used to reduce edema. At a later stage, expertly fitted medical compression garments manage lymphedema for the long term.
Exercise: Whilst wearing your compression garments or bandaging, specifically prescribed exercises that utilise your muscles’ pumping action will be performed to assist in moving the fluid out of the lymphedematous area.
Skin Care: Keeping the skin clean and moisturized will help to prevent skin damage and infections that often occur with lymphedema.
It is important to note that the exercise and MLD elements of CDT have not been found to be effective on their own and that MLD or “lymphatic massage” alone will not prevent lymphedema from progressing. Every person with lymphedema should be wearing a professionally ﬁt compression garment.
Post-operative Cosmetic Surgery
The same techniques that mobilise fluid to treat lymphedema can be utilised to minimise edema and bruising from cosmetic surgery. Standard-sized or custom compression garments can be applied directly over edematous regions.
In the early post-operative period, manual lymphatic drainage can be applied proximally to the surgical site. This will encourage drainage of local edema without stressing incision lines. Once healed, manual therapy to incision lines can minimise scarring and soft tissue adhesions.
For a physiotherapy appointment for issues relating to lymphedema, please request to see our Lymphedema Specialist.