Lymphedema and Massage Therapy... can it help?

Lymphedema and Massage Therapy... can it help?

By: Sarah Tyler

Q: I recently got diagnosed with lymphedema in my legs and it causes some discomfort when I’m standing and in the evening while I am winding down from the day. Is this something that massage therapy can help with?

A: Swelling is a very common problem that comes into the clinic. Whether it be from a fresh new injury or an old one, our bodies defense system does a good job to protect us. Swelling can be uncomfortable, hot to the touch and painful but will improve as the body heals and you recover from an injury. Massage therapy can help reduce swelling and help the body pump fluid out of the tissues, it can soothe the injured areas and soothe the nervous system.

Lymphedema is different from swelling with injuries, as it is related to your Lymphatic System and immunity in the body. Its purpose in the body is to remove lymph (waste from the body i.e. excess fluid, proteins, fats, bacteria etc) by collecting it and returning it to the circulatory system for removal. Accumulation of lymph in the extremities occurs when the lymphatic vessels are damaged or overloaded, which results in leaking into the surrounding tissue.

There are two types of lymphedema, primary and secondary. Primary is when there is no known cause for the accumulation of lymph in the body and secondary is when there is an underlying condition causing it (i.e. removal of a lymph node, injury to the node, scarring around lymphatic vessels, etc). 

Overall Massage Therapy can help increase circulation of the body and help with lymphatic drainage by stimulating the Lymphatic and Circulatory systems. It can help encourage lymph nodes to drain better and the massage strokes can help bring the built up lymph to the lymph nodes for removal. Clients will notice a small change in the course of treatment of lymphedema from each appointment. However there are specialized therapists that do Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT) that will help better than massage therapy alone. I would suggest that if you have secondary lymphedema, finding a therapist that can do CDT will give you the best results. If you have primary lymphedema or want to try massage therapy before CDT, the massage therapists at ProActive Rehab can definitely help! 

Any other questions about how we can best help you or direct you, please give us a call at ProActive Rehab (705) 788-1480

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