Lymphedema Treatment


Welcome to the MSU lymphedema clinic. You
are likely watching this video because you have been recently evaluated by a
physical therapist for swelling of your limb. There are many causes for limb
swelling, including treatment for cancer genetic factors, circulatory issues, heart
issues, and side effective medications along with injury and joint replacement.
Your doctor feels that you would benefit from treatment of your limbs swelling.
The lymphatic system in this case is designed to pick up large protein
molecules which are the products of cellular metabolism. If that lymphatic system is not working, those protein molecules will stay in your
limbs and attract water, and this is what leads to swelling. At the MSU Lymphedema
Clinic, we employ a comprehensive treatment program to teach you how to
manage your swelling. We typically do not cure lymphedema, but we teach
management, so that going forward you can keep your swelling under control.
Although circumstances may vary, typically we see people with leg
swelling four times a week for four weeks and for arm swelling four times a
week for three weeks. Treatment includes: meticulous skin care in order to create
a strong barrier to bacteria that can cause infection. We also teach exercises.
These are designed to promote movement of lymph fluid toward your trunk. These
should be completed on a daily basis to help the lymph system pick up large
protein molecules that are constantly being produced.
We then teach manual lymphatic drainage. This is a special type of massage that
we will do to you, but also teach you how to do to yourself. This promotes the
movement of those protein molecules up towards your trunk. We then follow this
with compression bandaging. This involves covering the affected area with a thin
cotton sleeve, wrapping that with a thin layer of foam, and then over that, several
layers of short stretch bandages which help to provide sequential compression
to the limb. The bandages will typically stay on for 22 to 23 hours a day, seven
days a week while you are in treatment. Finally, we fit you or recommend fitting
for a permanent compression garment. This garment should then be worn daily in the
maintenance phase of your program. Once you have completed treatment and
obtained a compression garment, we will educate you on long-term management of
your problem. This will include wearing your garmet
daily, wrapping your legs some or all nights of the week, doing your home
exercise as well as self massage. There are a few items that you will need for
participation in our treatment program. If you have leg swelling, you will need
to get a pair of shoes that are two or three sizes larger than what you
typically wear. These shoes will only be needed for the time you are in treatment,
as during the maintenance phase, bandages will only be applied at night. We will
also ask you to get Eucerin lotion, which is alcohol and fragrance-free, and that’s
easier on the skin. Finally, bandaging supplies will need to be purchased. Your
therapist will provide you with a list of the needed items and some suggestions
as to where they can be obtained. While the treatment program may seem a little
challenging at first, you will become proficient at applying the bandages and
your swelling will be kept under good control. If you don’t feel that you can
manage this program, either you don’t have help at home or you physically
can’t manage it, then we still suggest that you come in for a few treatment
sessions. There we can teach you some self-treatment techniques including
exercise, the self massage, and skin care.

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