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Many women who have had breast cancer surgery or radiation treatment develop swelling in the arms known as lymphedema. During surgery, lymph nodes that carry waste out of the body are destroyed, resulting in swelling due to the build-up of lymphatic fluid in the tissues. Other causes of lymphedema are wounds that have become infected, overuse of the affected limb and vigorous massage following mastectomy or breast surgery. Lymphedema may affect the arms, legs or abdomen.
Physiotherapy has proven very successful in treating lymphedema, employing a variety of techniques including bandages, compression garments, massage and exercise. During the course of treatment, your physiotherapist would take measurements of affected limbs for future comparison.
Special low-stretch bandages are purchased for lymphedema treatment. You will be taught how to wrap the limb in a spiral fashion, beginning at the wrist and moving up the arm toward the armpit. The limb should not be wrapped too tightly as this can aggravate the condition. Watch for numbness in the hand, coldness or change in the colour of the fingers. These may indicate that the bandage is too tight, in which case it should be removed immediately. Compression garments are used in conjunction with bandages help to relieve swelling faster.
Lymphedema massage is a special technique that assists the body to get rid of the stagnant fluid. Unlike regular massage, it is light and rhythmic and aimed at stimulating the lymph vessels just below the skin. It uses small, circular movements to move the fluid from the affected side to the unaffected side where it can be drained away. Following massage, the limb is wrapped and the patient moves to the next phase of treatment, which is exercise. We will train you how to do this, either using your own movements or with the help of specially-designed equipment. Exercise helps to pump fluid out of the body.
If you suffer from lymphedema or know someone who does, come in and see us at Oakridge Physiotherapy or tell your friend how physiotherapy can help.
Printed from http://oakridgephysio.ca/phy/why-people-see-us/lymphedema