Lymphedema, which is excessive swelling in the arms or legs, caused by the accumulation of lymph, is another area of specialty treatment at Axis Sports Medicine. It is often caused by a compromised lymphatic system due to cancer, removal of lymph nodes, radiation during cancer treatment or by an infection. There is also a congenital condition that affects the vessels of the lymphatic system, but it is rare.
The lymphatic system is an extensive network of tissues and organs, that help rid the body of waste, toxins and undesirable materials. Lymph is a high density fluid, comprised of white blood cells, interstitial fluid, proteins and fats, which move toxins and materials around the body. Superficial vessels under the skin and collecting nodes ultimately drain lymph to larger ducts in our neck and abdomen for cleaning. Being a valveless system with no pump of its own, the lymphatic system works closely with our circulatory system. Transport of lymph is facilitated by the pumping of the heart and the action of the muscles in our extremities. When too much lymph is present outside the system, it creates a negative pressure that continues to draw more fluid out, clogging the nodes and resulting in lymphedema.
Frequently distressing to patients; lymphedema can be painful, lead to stiffness in joints, cause discoloration of the skin, or even lead to infection and disability. Lymphedema can greatly limit a patient’s ability to function at work and at home and, unfortunately, there is no cure. Treatment is focused on education, prevention and management of symptoms. We recommended you have medical clearance from your doctor and a written therapy prescription prior your first visit. At that visit, your therapist will take a detailed history and evaluation, taking measurements of swelling, range of motion, and assessing your current function. Key components of a treatment plan can include specialized lymphatic massage, compression garments, sequential pumps, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. Your therapist will work with you to minimize your symptoms, establish an individual treatment plan and set personal goals to get you back to living your best life!