Peterson Lymphedema Therapy Program
What is Lymphedema? Lymphedema is an abnormal build-up of protein-rich fluid in the space between cells of the body which can cause chronic inflammation, reactive hardening of the skin, and varying amounts of fat build-up in the affected area. In America, the most common cause of lymphedema is cancer, which is usually treated with removal of and/or radiation of lymph nodes in the axillary (armpit) and inguinal (groin) areas of the body, however, lymphedema can occur due to other reasons, including issues with veins and circulation, genetics, unknown onset, and parasitic infections known as “filariasis”.
Common signs of Lymphedema can include:
- Pitting (or non-pitting) edema
- Gradual onset of swelling
- Discomfort (c/o heaviness, tightness, achiness in swollen limb)
- Increased risks of infection or history of cellulitis
- Distal to proximal swelling progression (Moving from hand/foot UP the arm/leg)
- Hardening of the skin (in later stages)
- Fat accumulation
Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for lymphedema, however, treatment is available to decrease the symptoms and allow for a normal life without the burden that comes with a lymphedema diagnosis. Peterson Health has recently begun a Lymphedema Therapy program at the ACC with two certified lymphedema therapist on staff trained to treat and help our patients that are dealing with a lymphedema diagnosis. This treatment process is referred to as Complete Decongestive Therapy.
Complete Decongestive Therapy includes four components that patient will receive during their time in therapy, followed by a continuation of the tasks at home to maximize results. These components include:
- MLD (Manual Lymphatic Drainage)
- Compression Bandaging
- Therapeutic Exercises
Other information patients will receive include:
- Life tips for living with lymphedema
- Nutrition guidelines
- Insurance coverage information for the condition
- Online lymphedema resources
A Complete Decongestive Therapy regiment is high intensity and high compliance therapy process that requires high motivation from the patient to improve their condition. Most therapy plans of care will require patients to be seen 4 to 5 days per week for at least 3 weeks, where they will receive manual lymph drainage, and apply compression bandages on swollen limb, where they need to keep the bandaging for at least 22 hours at a time, just enough for them to take a bath, clean the limb and travel going to therapy. With compliance to the program and to self-care at home, patients can see limb volumes reduce up to 85-90%, many times returning to same size or almost the same size as non-affected limb. Additionally, at the end of their plan of care, patient will be fitted for a compression garment to use at home in order to maintain progress made and reduce the chances of a relapse of swelling in their affected limbs.
At Peterson Health, patients will be treated with CDT by their therapists to reduce swelling in limbs, improve range of motion, decrease sensitivity issues such as “tightness, heaviness, and/or achiness,” and improve overall quality of life. This will also promote patient responsibility so that they can take charge of their own care and be ready to conquer whatever comes their way without being limited by their lymphedema.