Home > Blog > Physiotherapy > Deep Tissue Release > Conditions > Lymphedema Physiotherapy
Lymphedema refers to swelling generally in the arms or legs due to a
blockage in your lymphatic system.
It's estimated that about one third
(33%, one in three) of women who undergo axillary lymph node dissection during breast cancer
treatment will develop lymphedema.
Identifying and treating lymphedema
early helps ensure faster and better outcomes, but even treatment later
on, during the chronic stages of the disease, can still help.
To determine if you have lymphedema, check with your physician or
our senior physiotherapists immediately if you have swelling in one of your limbs
- Have cancer or have been treated for cancer
- Have a cardiac, kidney, or liver condition
What is Lymphedema?
Our lymphatic system collects lymph (excess fluid, proteins, and
other substances) from the body tissues and carries them back to the
This lymph is moved slowly through lymphatic vessels and is
passed through the lymph nodes and swelling ("edema") may occur when the
lymph increases in the body tissues.
Lymphedema occurs when the normal
drainage of fluid is disrupted by a blockage or a cut in the lymph nodes
in the groin area or the armpit.
Lymphedema can be a hereditary
condition, but it's most commonly the result of blockages caused by
- scar tissue from radiation therapy or the
surgical removal of lymph nodes
You're at greater risk for lymphedema if you:
- Had surgical removal of lymph nodes in the underarm, groin, or pelvic region
- Received radiation therapy to the underarm, groin, pelvic region, or neck
- Have scar tissue in the lymphatic ducts, veins, or under the collarbones caused by surgery or radiation therapy
- Have cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes in the neck, chest, underarm, pelvis, or abdomen
- Have tumors in the pelvis, abdomen, or chest that involve or put
pressure on the lymphatic vessels and/or the large lymphatic duct
thereby blocking lymph drainage
- Have inflammation of the arm or leg after surgery
- Are older
- Have an inadequate diet or are overweight, as these conditions may
delay recovery from surgery and radiation therapy and may increase the
risk for lymphedema
Signs and Symptoms
With lymphedema, you may have:
- Swelling in your arms, legs, shoulders, hands, fingers, or chest
- Skin that feels tighter, harder, or thicker than normal in the affected area
- Aching or a feeling of heaviness in your arm or leg
- Weakness in your arm or leg
- Inability to move certain joints, such as your wrist or ankle, as freely as usual
- "Pitting" in the tissues of your limb (an indentation that is made
by pressing a finger on the skin that takes time to “fill in” after the
pressure is removed)
- Clothing, rings, bracelets, or shoes that fit tighter than before
- Repeated infections in your arm or leg
- Joint pain
- Difficulty doing your daily activities
If you have fever and chills, and your limb with lymphedema is red,
swollen, or painful, and feels warm to the touch, you may have an
How Is It Diagnosed?
Our senior physiotherapist will review your medical history and
medications and perform a thorough physical examination that includes
the following information:
- Your actual weight compared with your ideal weight
- Measurements of your arms and legs
- How well you’re able to do activities of daily living
- History of edema, previous radiation therapy, or surgery
- The time between surgery and when you first noticed the swelling
- Other conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, heart disease, or phlebitis (inflammation of the veins)
how our senior physiotherapists and senior massage therapists can help
Our senior physiotherapist will serve as an important member of your
health care team and will work closely with you to design a treatment
program to help control the swelling and meet your goals for returning
to your activities.
In the early stages of lymphedema, when the swelling is mild, it can
often be managed by compression garments, exercise, and elevation of the
affected limb to encourage lymph flow.
For more severe swelling, we may use a treatment called "complete decongestive
The initial step often includes manual lymphatic drainage,
which feels like a light form of massage and helps improve the flow of
lymph from your arm or leg. This is followed by compression bandaging
that helps to reduce the swelling.
We will carefully monitor
the size of the limb throughout your treatment sessions.
Once the limb has decreased to the desired size, we will help you begin to take over your own care by:
- Developing a safe and sensible exercise program that will increase
your physical fitness without unnecessarily straining your affected arm
- Updating your compression garments to ensure proper fitting, working
with you to find the type of garment that best meets your needs
- Educating you about proper diet to decrease fluid buildup in your tissues and skin care to reduce the risk of infection
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Phoenix Rehab physio Services
Phoenix Rehab Group works with specialist
physiotherapists and rehab therapists who are highly
trained, qualified, experienced and passionate to provide high level of
expert care to our patients.
PHYSIOTHERAPY & PHYSICAL THERAPY
HAND THERAPY & SPLINTING
Patients who sustained injuries to their elbows, forearms, hands, wrists
(sprains and fractures) and fingers, and requires Hand Therapy to increase the function of their hand
following injuries or post-operations as well as custom made hand splints.
Commonly treated hand pain injuries includes
CLINICAL PILATES & WELLNESS PILATES
Clinical Pilates is a form of physical exercise that focuses on posture,
core stability, balance, control, strength, flexibility, and breathing. It is a system of safe and effective exercises, which
meet specific individual needs, to treat a wide range of injuries
You may do Pilates as matwork or with the reformer or both, and every session will be customized 100% to your fitness, injury and tolerance.
TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE (TCM)
All our allied health therapists and TCM physicians are fully insured and registered with Allied Health Professions Council (AHPC) and Traditional Chinese Medicine Board (TCMB).
See our entire team here with introductions and their specializations.
At the first session, our specialist physiotherapists will carry out a thorough
assessment, helping them to select the most appropriate treatment to
help you recover as well as provide treatment in the same session.
Follow up sessions are inline to provide
expert treatment for your pain as well as prescribing specific
exercises to reduce your risk of re-injury and giving you a long term
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