Conquering Lymphedema

by Roseanne Cruz

According to recent studies, the incidence of breast cancer-related edema can range from 6-70%. Lymphedema, which can affect both men and women, is a persistent swelling of a body part due to a blockage in lymphatic flow when nodes or vessels are damaged or abnormal, such as post-radiation or chemotherapy treatment. Individuals who have lymphedema may complain of discomfort or pain in the affected limb, feeling of fullness in the limb, fatigue, or decreased flexibility. They may also complain of breast or pelvic pain, tight-feeling skin, difficulty fitting into clothes, or tightness when wearing rings, bracelets, watches, socks, or shoes.

Lymph drainage therapy (LDT) consists of a gentle massage technique that is said to aid in the circulation of body fluids, drain toxins from the body, stimulate the immune system and the parasympathetic system, reduce pain and/or muscle spasms, increase ROM, and decrease swelling.  LDT can be used to treat conditions such as post-surgery and scars, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, infertility, painful periods, constipation, and irritable bowel syndrome. In conjunction, it is important to have an exercise program of stretching and strengthening to get the maximum benefits of LDT.  After treatment, the patient may experience increased urinary frequency or increased amount of urine, increased sleep time or better quality of sleep, tension release and/or emotional release, or improved senses.

If you are seeking treatment, you need to see a licensed healthcare provider that is trained in Lymphedema Drainage Therapy.  To find a specialist in your area, go to www.apta.org and click on “Find a PT,” or do a search through the National Lymphedema Network.

Roseanne Cruz, PT, DPT, LLCC, is certified in lymphedema management through the Upledger Institute.  Roseanne received her B.S. and doctoral (DPT) degree from New York University.  Roseanne has been interested in working with patients with pelvic pain, pelvic floor dysfunction in adults and children, and lymphedema for many years and has spoken in the Greater New York area on these topics. Roseanne is a member of the APTA (Women’s Health and Oncology sections), National Vulvodynia Association, International Pelvic Pain Society, and the National Lymphedema Network.

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