If you or someone you know has problems with swelling, especially in the arms and legs, there are effective, short-term therapy treatments, which may give long-term, dramatic results.
As one of my patients said, “Wow, look how small my leg is again! That’s great!” Her face was full of excitement and her voice full of energy. All of a sudden, she asked, “Now, can you do that to my backside and waist?” I am often asked if the treatment will get rid of their unwanted pounds as well, and we always laugh. If I could help my patients reshape places like that, I certainly would. What I can do is help reshape areas of the body that have become swollen from lymphedema, or venous problems, by performing a specialized technique called Lymphatic Decongestive Therapy to the body part(s) affected by this condition.
There are many types of swelling (edema) that can cause any part of the body to enlarge. Most of these cases are due to an unusual circumstance, like a recent broken bone or surgery. Some types of swelling are brought on by organ dysfunction, like kidney or congestive heart failure. If you are suffering from swelling in a body part (most commonly in the arms or legs) which is caused by lymphedema, the lymph system of that area is congested and causes the lymph fluid to back up in the skin tissue. The skin feels thick and sometimes leaves a dent if you press on it. In advanced cases, water blisters can form on the skin and weep fluid down the area. Lymphedema can set in naturally without any known reason, but most often it develops from scarring and trauma, infections, post-mastectomy or radiation therapy, or removal of lymph nodes in any area of the body. In the legs, venous insufficiency (bad veins) can cause blood to pool in the legs and create swelling from poor blood flow. We also can help with these kinds of problems.
The standard therapy process involves hands on massage called manual lymph drainage, layered compression wrapping and patient education for teaching a person how to maintain the good results at home. Each day the patient returns for treatment they are “unwrapped,” and we get to see how much smaller the area has become. Although the results vary, we are all excited to see what change is there. Often, the improvement is significant, happens quickly, and greatly increases their ability to walk or regain activity. The process of gaining mobility, comfort and quality of life as the lymphedema is brought under control is extremely rewarding for me and my patients.
If you have swelling and do not know what caused it or how it can be treated, see your physician and have it evaluated. If your doctor finds that it is due to lymphedema or venous insufficiency, he or she can help you decide if therapy is a good choice for you. If you or someone you know has questions about swelling, the MEND Program or treatment, call 865-640-0517. We look forward to helping you in any way we can.
Andi Garris is a certified lymphedema therapist and a doctor of physical therapy in the Blount Memorial Total Rehabilitation.