What Is Lymphedema Massage Therapy?

Lymphedema is the term used to describe an abnormal collection of lymph fluid, especially in one or all limbs. Lymphedema may occur on its own (primary) or due to some other medical condition (secondary). The cause of lymphedema is yet not completely known.

What Is Lymphedema Massage Therapy?

Lymphatic massage therapy can prove to be immensely beneficial in suggested cases of lymphedema. Lymphedema massage therapy or lymphatic massage therapy is a technique developed for the manual drainage of the abnormally collected lymph fluid. This technique has been developed in Germany.

Lymphedema massage therapy usually starts at the neck. The therapist will gently rub, tap, push or stroke the skin in the direction of the lymphatic circulation. This will prompt the accumulated lymph fluid to drain through proper channels. This therapy technique is very soft and gentle, not painful and it also does not exert a stimulating effect. This therapy is seen to create a positive effect in the first week of the starting of the therapy itself. And the effects are stabilized over the second week of the treatment.

  • Lymphedema massage therapy is used in all types of lymphedema.
  • However, there are certain factors to be considered when it comes to the usage of this therapy on the affected persons.
  • If one has been treated with lymphedema surgery, and if they witness an increase in the localized swelling, then this therapy should be immediately stopped; and prompt medical action is to be sought.
  • If the person suffers from blood clotting risks, then such a person should be evaluated for deep vein thrombosis before starting this massage therapy and regular follow up checks are to be carried out on such persons during the therapy.
  • If there is a sudden lymphangitis seen; then the massage therapy is to be discontinued immediately. Hold the therapy till the infection clears out.
  • Those persons who also suffer from congestive heart failure, need to be checked on very closely, as there is a risk of too much fluid moving too quickly, and this can put enough strain on the heart.
  • In case of pain, the therapy has to be suspended till the cause of the pain is found out and treated and the pain subsides completely.

There are other lymphedema techniques combined with the lymphatic massage therapy, which aim to provide relief from the symptoms of the lymphedema. These techniques include-

  • Wrapping the affected limb or limbs tightly so as to prompt the collected fluid to flow back from the extremities to the trunk. In this technique, the ends of the extremities are wrapped tightly and as the bandage progresses up towards the trunk, it is wrapped loosely.
  • Another technique is known as pneumatic compression. In this technique, a sleeve is worn on the affected limb and it is connected to a pump which inflates it at intervals, thus exerting a gentle pressure on the affected limb, and hence helps in movement of the fluid away from the limb and toward the trunk. This reduces swelling and pain.
  • These techniques together with the lymphatic massage therapy are together called complete decongestant therapy (CDT).
  • Though these together look like a promising therapy, it is not recommended in persons suffering from hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, paralysis etc.

Experts believe that manual lymphatic drainage or lymphatic massage therapy is a remarkable and worthwhile therapy in treatment of lymphedema. However, it is absolutely not needed by people who do not suffer from lymphedema and are generally healthy. It is not required to live a healthy life. This is mentioned, because many practices like beauty services, rejuvenation centers etc. advertise the use of lymphatic massage as a restoration technique for sluggish lymphatic system. However, no evidence is found for this and also there are no studies supporting this theory that lymphatic massage therapy may be successfully used for these purposes.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 5, 2018

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