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MLD and Edema

Lymphatic system
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Last week while visiting with a physical therapy center in Sandpoint, I asked if they had clients experiencing edema and/or lymphedema (swelling within the tissues).  I was told they see many clients with these conditions from sports injuries to medical conditions resulting in swelling in arms, legs, and torso.  They also informed me that they are not always prepared or educated on how best to treat these clients.

As a lymphedema specialist, my concern rose about adequate treatment for people suffering the effects of swelling, especially when it continues to increase over time creating pain, discomfort, and oftentimes disability.

Edema and lymphedema are conditions resulting from many situations:  blunt trauma, surgery of many kinds (and in the case of lymphedema, the removal of lymph nodes), and complications from certain medical treatments, especially chemotherapy and radiation.  The lymph system is our health warrior protecting us from external pathogens and monitoring our internal functions.  When something happens to the body such as surgery, this experience can cause a disruption in the natural flow of lymph fluids carrying these pathogens and normal debris out of the body.  The fluid pathways may become blocked and seek other ways out, but in doing this, it backs up in the tissues creating swelling.  If left untreated, the fluids begin to change consistency becoming harder (fibrotic).  This in turn creates pain and discomfort and the swelling continues to expand as fluids struggle to get through this tougher tissue.

A knowledgeable manual lymph drainage specialist understands this progressive development and can enable the body to find available pathways by lightly compressing the swollen tissues moving it in appropriate new directions.  This therapy reduces fluids fairly quickly and tissues can be restored to normal size.  To support this treatment protocol, it is important to wear support/compression garments, i.e. sleeves, stockings, gloves for hands, and abdominal bands, to continue adequate compression to keep fluids moving.  Once the skin and tissues become accustomed to enlarging for cause, cellular memory will continue this process when fluid stress increases.

Manual lymph drainage therapy impressively works effectively with its light touch.  The key is understanding the lymph system and its flow patterns and redirecting fluids to available pathways when normal ones become blocked or damaged or when lymph nodes are no longer existing as occurs with radiation or surgical removal.

Consultation with a trained manual lymph drainage specialist is an important step in recovering from the discomfort, pain, and disabling effects of edema and lymphedema.

Krystle Shapiro, owner of Touchstone Massage Therapies, specializes in manual lymph drainage therapy and is certified in Complete Decongestive Therapy.  She may be reached at 208/290-6760.

MLD and Edema
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