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Managing Lymphedema with Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Managing Lymphedema with Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Lymphoedema is a condition caused by an accumulation of too much lymph fluid and leads to moderate or severe swelling in the soft tissue beneath the skin. It is seen most commonly in the limbs, but it can happen in other body parts as well.

Blockages in the fluid can be caused by infection, surgeries, removal of or damage to lymph nodes during cancer treatment. Lymphoedema can also be due to a genetic condition that results in underdevelopment or absence of the lymph nodes.

Signs and symptoms of lymphoedema include:

  • Swelling of part or all of the arms or legs, including the fingers or toes, which can result in restricted range of motion of that part, as well as, aching and discomfort
  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness
  • Recurring infections
  • Hardening and thickening of the skin, called fibrosis

The swelling caused by lymphoedema ranges from mild, hardly noticeable changes in the size of your arm or leg, all the way to extreme changes that make the limb hard to use. Lymphoedema caused by cancer treatment may not occur until months or even years after treatment.

Your lymphatic system plays a vital role in immune health and detoxification pathways. Lymph fluid travels throughout the body in the lymphatic system collecting bacteria, viruses, toxins and waste along the way. These harmful substances are then filtered out by the lymph nodes and ultimately flushed from the body.

Lymphoedema occurs when lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain the lymph fluid and the fluid builds up causing pain, heaviness and swelling.

A further complication is an increased risk of recurring infections, including cellulitis a serious bacterial infection of the skin and lymphangitis, an infection of the lymph vessels.

A treatment protocol for clients diagnosed with lymphoedema begins with:

  • Your practitioner recording measurements which include the size of your swollen limbs, your weight and hydration status;
  • Regular lymphatic drainage massage to drain and clear the lymph nodes and keep the lymph moving; and
  • A dietary assessment to help you eliminate foods that are contributing to inflammation, enhancing detoxification pathways, enhance kidney function and addressing any nutritional deficiencies.

To further enhance treatment our clients are encouraged to:
Drinks lots of water 6-8 glasses a day to clear any build-up of toxins or inflammation in the body

  • Keep active. Walking every day, or other gentle movement, can enhance lymphatic flow
  • Self-clearing of the nodes. Your lymphatic drainage practitioner will teach you how to open and close your lymph nodes.
  • Pump the feet to keep fluid moving. This can be done while sitting on the couch with legs raised and then pump feet as long as you can.
  • For the arms, do slow, reaching exercises. If you have any scarring from a mastectomy or have had radiation therapy the movements should be slow and gentle. There may be numbness near the affected area but this is normal and may eventually go.
  • Eat a whole food diet, rich in fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid processed foods and added table salt.
  • Hygiene is of the utmost importance to keep the vulnerable areas of lymphoedema clean to avoid any kind of infection. The affected area also needs to be safely moisturized to keep the skin from becoming dry and cracked.

Persistence is the key to managing lymphoedema. There will be days when you will feel frustrated and "fed-up". It is important to reach out to someone who can support you, ie: your practitioner or a support group such as the Australian Lymphology Association (1300 935 332).

If you have been diagnosed with lymphoedema, contact Elemental Health on (02) 8084 0081 or email info@elementalhealth.net.au to discuss a treatment program designed specifically for you to improve your health and wellbeing.

Posted on 12 August 2021
Author:Elemental Health
Tags:LymphoedemaManual lymphatic drainage

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