For many cancer survivors, treating lymphedema is often a lifelong task of managing symptoms since no immediate cure has been found. However, all of the lymphedema therapy options have proven effective for relieving lymphedema over time. Most of the lymphedema therapy treatments are non-invasive and provide real relief.
Choosing a lymphedema therapy regimen that is right for you is a decision you should pursue with a certified lymphedema therapist (CLT). They will work with you to create a treatment plan that best meets your needs.
Below we’ve listed the most common lymphedema therapy options which will help you be informed about what is available for your lymphedema treatments.
Complete Decongestive Therapy
Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) consists of compression bandaging, skin care, massage therapy, and exercise. This unique combination allows for your certified lymphedema therapist to adjust therapies as necessary to reduce lymphedema symptoms. CDT is the leading lymphedema therapy for its effectiveness in reversing lymphedema and decreasing lymphedema severity.
Our blog “Managing Lymphedema through CDT” provides a summary of lymphedema and how it is best combated through CDT.
Compression bandaging is one of the most reliable ways to provide relief. Bandages wrapped around swollen areas encourage the built-up lymphatic fluid to flow through the vessels and soft tissues. This compression eases up the tension the stuck fluid creates and minimizes pain from the swelling. Compression bandaging provides valuable therapeutic pressure, and your CLT will train you to eventually perform this technique independently.
Having a skin care routine is an excellent way to combat any infections. When the lymphatic system is damaged, infections are more likely. Cellulitis, in particular, comes in through cut skin and can spread quickly through the lymph fluid. It can be an unfortunate infection for lymphedema patients due to its skin inflammation.
A lymphedema skin care routine avoids activities that could create open wounds, seeking medical attention immediately when an infection is suspected, and keeping the skin hydrated. Massaging plain lotion into the skin can also help relieve lymphedema.
While both massage and physical therapies are part of Complete Decongestive Therapy and are most effective together, they can also stand alone as individual therapies for lymphedema relief.
Massage therapy (manual lymphatic drainage) involves manipulating the soft tissues to encourage lymph fluid drainage. Unlike massage therapy for muscular tightness or pain, manual lymphatic drainage is a more gentle touch that helps move lymphatic fluid through the vessels. Manual lymphatic drainage can be performed by a certified lymphedema therapist. Your lymphedema therapist will also teach you how to do self manual lymphatic drainage which is a key component of care.
Physical therapy interventions for lymphedema include exercises and stretching that assist the protein-rich lymph fluid to drain through the soft tissues. Lymphedema exercises are light exercises that will expand to include more activities as the patient’s progression allows.
Physical therapy is also recommended to help maintain a healthy weight, improve blood circulation, and strengthen weakened muscles from surgery and treatment. The American Cancer Society recommends meeting the daily requirement of exercise. Doing so can reduce the chances of aftereffects to cancer treatments and getting other cancers.
Lymphedema exercises will focus on making the muscles act as pumps for the lymph fluid. Many exercises revolve around strengthening the muscles through slowly tightening then releasing the muscles and are meant to slowly build up strength while improving the lymphatic flow.
Stretching works in the same way as strengthening/movement exercises by increasing the body’s movement and increasing the flexibility in the muscles. Movement aids in lymphatic flow and is essential to reducing the symptom burden of lymphedema.
Lymphedema Therapy at ORW
Our services at Oncology Rehab and Wellness combine the prospective surveillance model (PSM) with complete decongestive therapy (CDT). Our lymphedema therapist has years of experience tailoring CDT to our patients’ needs and can help you find lymphedema relief.
You can schedule your free 15-minute consultation to help you determine if we are right for you. We are honored to help our patients achieve a higher quality of life through our services. And, we would appreciate the opportunity to do so for you. Find out more about our lymphedema therapy offerings.