The lymphatic system is one of the body's amazing and intricate designs for keeping us healthy a "waste disposal system" that clears away toxins, bacteria, dead blood cells and cancer cells, along with protein and excess water. When lymph nodes are damaged, destroyed or removed because of surgery or radiation, often as part cancer treatment, the system can't do its job. Excess fluid accumulates. The resulting swelling in the arms and/or legs is known as Lymphedema. If untreated, it can lead to pain and infection and limit range of motion.
Lymphedema can occur weeks or even years after burns, surgery or cancer treatment. Or it can arise without apparent cause due to genetic, structural weakness of the lymph vessels. Your limbs might feel heavy, achy or tingly. Skin may feel taut, look shiny and ultimately thicken, dry and crack.
Over time, swelling near joints can restrict movement, decrease muscle strength and keep you from activities you enjoy. When untreated, these conditions can grow worse. The good news is that with prompt treatment, the symptoms may be reversible. But it's never too late to get started. Even symptoms that began 20 years before can still respond to treatment.
COMPLEX DECONGESTIVE THERAPY
Our Lymphedema therapists are experts in Complex Decongestive Therapy, which is considered to be the most effective approach to treatment. It incorporates several different techniques emphasizes education to help you learn to take care of yourself.
- Manual Lymph Drainage - This specialized massage technique is soothing and completely safe. Your therapist gently stretches and releases skin and tissue in the direction of healthy lymph nodes, helping the system do its job and reducing swelling.
- Bandaging and Compression - Your therapist will have you wear a low stretch elastic bandage while you're in treatment. After treatment, a compression sleeve will continue to control swelling by providing additional support for the lymphatic system. Your therapist will teach you how to bandage yourself and expertly fit you for a compression sleeve, which is crucial to its effectiveness.
- Skin care and Hygiene - Maintaining healthy skin is essential for those with Lymphedema because intact skin, with no scraps or cuts, prevents bacteria from entering and infecting the tissues.
- Exercise - An exercise program is an important component in the treatment and management of Lymphedema. We'll show you specific exercises to stimulate the lymphatic system and enhance lymph flow.
- Self-Massage - Your therapist will teach you a form of Manual Lymph Drainage that you can perform on yourself between treatments. Self-massage is an important role that you play in treating your Lymphedema.
It's frustrating to have Lymphedema. I hate it, but it's comforting to know I'm managing it the best way possible. I do the necessary things to care for myself, and I have a place to go when I need help.
- Helen, Los Angeles
Having Lymphedema on top of having cancer is really difficult. Being able to go to a Lymphedema therapist who is up to date on all the practices is very important. Richelle has helped me enormously. She keeps my Lymphedema under control with massage and compression. Richelle also taught me exercises and self-massage which I do every day. It's great to know that I have a therapist I can count on.
- Lynn L., Van Nuys
Lymphedema in my abdomen led to a series of life threatening infections that put me in the hospital every three months. I tried getting treatment elsewhere, but was still in and out of the hospital, a vicious cycle that lasted 1 ½ years. Then I was referred to Richelle and since I began treating with her I have not been in the hospital once. Richelle and Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy saved my life. Now I'm back to work fulltime and have my life back.
- Judith, Los Angeles