Roseanne Cruz Schoen, PT, DPT, LLCC, PRPC received her Lymphedema Certification through the Upledger Institute in 2009. Lymph Drainage Therapy addresses swelling in the upper and lower extremities, the trunk and the pelvic region in men, women, and children.
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels, nodes and lymph that absorbs excess fluid that the blood vessels do not reabsorb.
Lymph is a clear fluid between cells and within tissues. It contains proteins, fats, waste products, cells, water, chemicals, and foreign organisms.
The lymph nodes filter out foreign substances which are then destroyed in order to maintain the body’s health.
Lymph Drainage Therapy can be used to activate fluid circulation and reroute stagnant fluid. This helps drain toxins, proteins, fat. It also helps stimulate immune system and the parasympathetic system. It’s benefits include pain relief and reduction of muscle spasms.
When Do We Use Lymphatic Drainage Therapy?
This therapy is helpful in the presence of lymphedema. This is the swelling that results when lymphatic flow is impaired and protein-rich fluid accumulates within body tissues.
There are two types of lymphedema. The first is called primary lymphedema and it is congenital, meaning an individual is born with the disorder. Secondary lymphedema is caused by some out side factor such as surgery, radiation therapy, cancer, parasitic infection, burn, trauma, or disorders of the veins.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema?
Lymphedema can cause a large number of symptoms due to the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. These can include:
- Increased girth of one limb compared to the other
- Discomfort/pain in the affected limb
- Feeling of fullness and heaviness in the limb
- Tight-feeling skin
- Tightness, tenderness, or pain in the joints
- Decreased flexibility/weakness
- Pins and needles
- Difficulty fitting into clothes
- Ring, bracelet, wristwatch, shoe, or sock tightness
- Breast pain
- Groin tenderness
- Leaking of fluid from the skin
What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)?
Manual lymphatic drainage uses specific manual hand movements that follow anatomical lymph pathways. This process facilitates the movement of fluid within the lymph vessels. This process helps the lymphatic system return excess fluid and proteins to the circulation.
Benefits of MLD
- Activate fluid circulation
- Drain toxins, macromolecules, fat
- Stimulate the immune system
- Stimulate the parasympathetic system
- Reduce pain
- Reduce muscle spasms
- Increase ROM
- Decrease swelling/edema
- Better quality of sleep
MLD can be beneficial in a large variety of circumstances:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Crohn’s Disease, ulcerative colitis
- menstruation-PMS, pelvic pain, breast pain
- blocked lactation ducts
- swollen legs from varicose veins
- pelvic congestion
What are the Symptoms of Pelvic Congestion?
Pelvic congestion can result in a number of debilitating symptoms. Individuals may experience pain with sitting, standing, or intercourse, abdominal or pelvic tenderness, abnormal menstrual bleeding, lumbosacral neuropathy, rectal discomfort and urinary frequency.
What is the Process of MLD for Lymph Congestion?
There are 4 components of treatment for people with lymphedema:
- Manual Lymphatic Therapy-to facilitate lymph flow into the blood circulation and to create alternate pathways for lymph drainage
- Compression Bandaging- follows MLD session; uses short-stretch bandages to prevent re-accummulation of lymph fluid in the tissues
- Gentle therapeutic exercises- gentle range of motion exercises performed with the bandaged limb
- Skin and nail care– eliminate/prevent infection with daily bathing and thorough drying between skin folds, fingers, toes