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Lymphedema Requires Special Massage to be Effective

Lymph capillaries in the tissue spaces

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Whenever there is a trauma to human body tissues, whether from sports injury, surgery, or sprains and strains, swelling is often a result accompanied by heat and pain.  These are normal reactions the body sets in motion to repair and heal the damage.

Swelling (edema) occurs in muscle tissues and surrounding interior fluids.  Swelling occurring as a result of trauma to the lymph system is termed lymphedema.   Lymphedema can result from many situations:  blunt trauma, surgery, 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 and become harder (fibrotic).  This in turn creates pain and discomfort and the swelling continues to expand as fluids struggle to get through this tougher tissue.

The most effective therapy for the treatment of lymphedema is the light-handed and gentle protocol of manual lymph drainage.  Fluid collection by the lymph vessels occurs all over the body, but the main collectors are near the surface of our skin and are single celled vessel walls that require movement by muscle contraction to best receive fluids for transport deeper into the body to vessels with nerve enervation.  Any hard pressure attempting to move lymph fluid only flattens these collector vessels rather than gently opens their single celled flaps.

A knowledgeable manual lymph drainage specialist understands the anatomy and physiology of the lymph system as well as the progressive nature of lymphedema and can find other available pathways of lymph flow when there has been a disruption in normal flow patterns.  This can reduce fluid buildup 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.  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.

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