As a massage therapist, every week I uncover symptoms that could point to an underlying disease. Often, that means sending people with moles and chest pain to get it checked out. But what about that puffy ankle that doesn’t go away? What if it’s a sign of something bigger?
Lymphedema is a chronic swelling caused by your body’s inability to get fluid and waste back to your circulatory system. Having lymph fluid and even a temporary swollen lymph node (like the ones just under your ear that fill up when you get sick) are normal. In a healthy person (don’t you hate that phrase?), blood pushes fluid through the arteries, and from the capillary beds into your interstitial spaces. From there, your lymphatics suck up fluid like a straw, and filter it through your lymph nodes (trapping pathogens like a cold virus), while sending clean fluids back to your veins to be turned into oxygenated blood. Everyone’s lymphatic system has a limit to the amount of fluid it can carry. When your body pushes too much fluid into an area (like after an injury) you have normal, healthy, temporary swelling. But if your lymphatic system doesn’t have enough capacity to carry fluid away from an area, you end up with chronic swelling: lymphedema.
Lymphedema is caused by either an innate defect in your lymphatic system, or when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged (like in cancer treatment) or when your lymphatic system is overtaxed for too long: chronic venous insufficiency, Lipedema, or obesity. Any chronic swelling should be checked out by your medical team. As a Vodder-Certified Lymphedema Therapist, I am trained to assess lymphedema using a series of measurement, and to discuss appropriate therapies with you and your doctor. When indicated, I treat patients using manual lymphatic drainage (slow rhythmic massage that increases the action of your lymphatic system) and bandaging to bring down swelling and return your limbs to their normal size. Lymphedema treatment is complex, so if you have questions, please make an appointment to discuss therapy with me.
Whether you need a consultation for Manual Lymphatic Drainage or a regular massage, please book soon – I’ll be away on Vacation at the end of August.