Outpatient Rehabilitation for Lymphedema Treatment
Lifespan’s rehabilitation department offers rehabilitation services for individuals who have lymphedema – swelling or an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin due to a problem with the lymphatic system. Lymphedema can occur in the arms, legs, trunk, head and neck, or genitals.
Lymphedema can be characterized as primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema is caused by abnormal development of the lymphatic system that is present at birth. Secondary lymphedema stems from injury or damage to the lymphatic system. Most common causes for secondary lymphedema are surgery, radiation, trauma, infection, immobility, and venous disease.
How We Treat Lymphedema
Lymphedema services at Lifespan are provided by occupational or physical therapists with specialty training in managing the condition. Each person referred to our program is evaluated to develop an individualized treatment plan. Treatment of lymphedema may include:
- skin care – keeping the area clean and dry to reduce risk of infection
- compression – pressure exerted on tissues through multilayer bandaging, compression garments, or a compression pump
- manual lymphatic drainage – a hands-on technique that stimulates your lymphatic system by stretching the skin in particular ways
- decongestive exercise, in which joint movements are performed in specific sequence while wearing compression
- patient education, comprising information on lymphedema precautions and self-care that may include self-lymphatic drainage, home exercises, skin care, self-bandaging, compression garment use and care, and bandaging alternative use and care
Not all swelling is lymphedema. It is important to talk to your health care provider if you feel you are experiencing swelling, which can be triggered by inflammatory problems or issues with your heart, kidneys, or liver.