Lymphoedema is a condition where a part of the body swells because the body can’t drain fluid in the lymphatic system fast enough
The Lymphatic system is the body’s garbage disposal, fluid moves around the body and picks up ‘out of place’ cells and either processes them for disposal or returns them to the right location.
The lymphatic system can be compromised temporarily, such as swelling with an ankle sprain, and then recover or can be permanently damaged where the lymphatic system can no longer process ‘the garbage’ fast enough.
Lymphoedema often occurs from chronic illnesses such as diabetes or as a side effect from cancer treatment.
Unfortunately, there is not yet a cure for Lymphoedema but there are continually developing management strategies including compression wear and lymph drainage treatment, which our Senior Physiotherapist Pia Jorgensen is trained and experienced in administering.
Compression Wear: Garment Fitting
Compression garments for lymphoedema are the most important component of management.
These garments must be individually fitted to give you the best possible graded compression to control your symptoms.
Garment fitting is a little more of an art than a science and Pia is committed to trying to get every patient the best possible fit.
Manual Lymph Drainage
Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a specialised form of massage used to help stimulate your lymphatic system when it is compromised.
Pia is trained in the Dr Vodder method, which aims at stimulating your working lymphatic system, and bypassing compromised sections of the lymph system.
These techniques work only temporarily.
They help you feel better and reduce the swelling in a limb to fit comfortably into a garment.
MLD can also be used for Chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune diseases and may other conditions.
Low Level Laser Therapy
Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) has been approved by Australian Therapeutic Goods Adminstration (TGA) in 2009 for the treatment of lymphoedema.
Research shows LLLT can help lymphedema in a number of ways:
- increase range of motion by reducing tightness
reduce the volume of the arm
- break down scar tissue
The laser light is believed to increase the flow of lymph, reduces the amount of excess protein and tissue in the fluid, and reduces the ability of scar tissue to “stick” to the underlying healthy tissue.
LLLT was introduced as a potential treatment for lymphoedema by Piller and Thelander in 1995. Since that time there have been numerous published clinical studies as well as cell and tissue studies which suggests that LLLT is a potential treatment for lymphatic disorders.
LLLT is reported to have beneficial effects on cells and tissues. LLLT has been trialled for the treatment of fibrous scar tissue and has been shown to affect fibroblasts (connective tissue cells). These effects are important both in treating surgical scars associated with postmastectomy lymphoedema (PML) and in treating the brawny oedema that often develops in lymphoedematous limbs (fibrosis). There is also a suggestion that LLLT encourages lymphogenesis (formation of lymphatic vessels from pre-existing ymphatic vessels) and stimulates lymphatic motoricity (lymph movement). Finally, LLLT appears to affect macrophage cells (remove cellular debris) and stimulate the immune system. All of these actions indicate that LLLT could be an appropriate treatment for post-mastectomy lymphoedema.
- restoration of lymphatic drainage through the axillary region due to stimulation of new lymphatic pathways
- restoration of drainage through reduction of fibrosis and scarring of tissues in the axillary region
- reduction in tissue fluid accumulation through changes in blood flow, either directly via an effect of blood vessels or by neural regulation of vessels in the limb
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