Lymphedema is the abnormal accumulation of fluid that can occur in the arms, legs, throat, or torso area. Lymphedema can occur immediately after breast cancer surgery or during radiation, or even 5, 10, 20 years after surgery. This swelling can result from radiation, lymph node removal (which is often part of breast cancer surgery), surgery, injuries, or in some cases, the person is born with it. This edema is a fluid that collects in the affected area and stagnates; this can cause secondary complications such as infections, cellulitis, wounds/ulcers and skin changes.
To treat this condition requires a therapist trained in Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD). MLD is a specific type of massage which decreases the swelling and moves the fluid out of the affected area. The area is then bandaged using special bandages to decrease the edema. After the area has been treated and decreased to within a normal size, a compression stocking is applied to stop the fluid from returning to the limb. Remember there is no cure for this condition, just management through therapy and bandaging. Also, the earlier the condition is treated, the better the outcome.
At Mountain Physical Therapy we have a trained MLD specialist who has achieved very good results with our patients, as you can see from the results on this page.