Lymphedema Therapy

Lymphedema treatment is designed to reduce pain, swelling, and other symptoms through a combination of special therapies and exercises. 

These treatments are provided by a Certified Lymphedema Specialist in an outpatient setting. 

The earlier lymphedema is treated, the better the results.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling of the arms and legs, generally as a result of removal or damage to your lymph nodes.

The lymphatic system collects excess fluid, proteins, and other substances  (or “lymph”) from the body tissues and carries them back to the  bloodstream through the lymph nodes. Swelling, or “edema,” may occur  when the lymph increases in the body tissues.

Lymphedema is a condition resulting in persistent swelling of an arm or leg due to a blockage in your lymphatic system, It can be a hereditary  condition, but it’s most commonly the result of blockages caused by  infection, cancer, and scar tissue from radiation therapy or the surgical removal of lymph nodes.

Many people who are actively  going through cancer treatment, or who have in the past, have not been offered the option of seeing a Lymphedema Therapist. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • Swelling in the arms, legs, shoulders, hands, fingers, or chest
  • Aching or a feeling of heaviness in your arm or leg
  • Weakness in your arm or leg
  • Joint pain
  • Inability to move joints as freely as usual
  • Skin that feels tighter, harder, or thicker than normal in the affected area
  • Indentations made by pressing a finger on the skin that take time to “fill in” after the pressure is removed, or “pitting”

If you’ve noticed these conditions, contact your physician regarding a referral to our Lymphedema Specialist.  Your doctor will review your medical history and medications and perform a  thorough examination to see whether or not you are suffering from lymphedema.

What to expect during your Lymphedema Treatment at ATS:

  • You will be assessed by an Occupational Therapist who is specifically trained and certified in Lymphedema Therapy.
  • Your therapist will evaluate your strength and range of motion and take measurements of your affected and non-affected areas, which will be  monitored vigilantly throughout the course of your treatment.
  • A  customized plan will be created just for you that begins with  instruction on how the program works, your specific diagnosis and how to  manage and further prevent lymphedema. If swelling is mild, it can often be managed by compression garments, exercise, and elevation of the  affected limb to encourage lymph flow. For more severe swelling, our Lymphedema Therapist may use a number of interventions, including manual lymphatic drainage, which feels like a light form of massage and helps  improve the flow of lymph. A session may consist of specialized massage, skin care, compression bandaging, continuing education, and a home exercise program to fit your individual needs.
  • Once the limb has decreased to the desired size, your therapist will help you begin to manage the affected area on your own through  education, a home exercise program, and updated compression garments.

Lymphedema, Breast Cancer, and OT:

An estimated one third of women who undergo axillary lymph node dissection  during breast cancer treatment develop lymphedema. Lymphedema Therapy before and after breast cancer reduces lymphedema, ensures better outcomes, and increases the survival rate.

Lymphedema Therapy treatment pre- and post- breast cancer can:

  • Increase postural endurance
  • Improve function
  • Decrease risk of lymphedema
  • Increase aerobic activity
  • Improve shoulder range of motion
  • Aid in developing lifelong physical activity program