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Lymphedema, Complete Decongestive Therapy and Manual Lymph Drainage

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a swelling of a body part, most often the extremities, but also the face, neck, abdomen or genitals.  This condition is progressive and occurs when the lymphatic system is compromised.  Primary Lymphedema represents a developmental abnormality of the lymphatic system which is either congenital or hereditary.  Secondary Lymphedema is much more common and is caused by a known, significant trauma that directly negatively affects the lymphatic system from functioning properly.  Some causes of Lymphedema are; significant injury or trauma, scarring, surgical procedures, and chronic venous insufficiency. The most common cause of secondary Lymphedema is cancer therapy, such as surgery and radiation. 

Lymphedema progresses through stages.  If left untreated, Lymphedema will slowly advance and will result in ever increasing limb volumes (edema, swelling), fibrosis or hardening of skin tissue and eventually sclerosis, papillomas and hyperkeratosis of the skin.  A noticeable difference in the size of a limb can very well indicate the presence of Lymphedema. 

How is Lymphedema treated?

There is no cure for Lymphedema, but with the care of a skilled Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT), the condition can be managed quite well.  The Gold Star Standard of treatment for Lymphedema is Complete Decongestive Therapy.  Complete Decongestive Therapy consists of Manual Lymph Drainage, multilayer medical compression bandaging, remedial exercises and meticulous skin and nail care. 

Manual Lymph Drainage

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a very light but powerfully effective manual therapy.  MLD targets stagnant lymph fluid and works to move the fluid out of swollen body areas and get lymph draining back into the venous system.  Swollen body parts will decongest and reduce in volume with MLD.  MLD also works to detoxify the body.  It can have an analgesic (pain relieving) effect and can promote deep relaxation. 


Other conditions that benefit from Manual Lymph Drainage

Manual Lymph Drainage can begin immediately after cancer surgeries to help reduce the probability of the onset of Lymphedema.  MLD not only reduces edema in the body but it removes inflammation, relieves pain and activates the parasympathetic nervous system which brings about great relaxation.  There are many other conditions that benefit from MLD.  Below are a few.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Post surgical Edema

  • Traumatic Edema

  • Migraine Headaches

  • Sinus Headaches

  • Chronic Fatigue

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Toxicity- (has detoxifying effect)

    Examples: poor diet, environmental exposures,

      alcoholism, drug addiction


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