If you have had lymph nodes removed during surgery, or you’ve had radiation therapy, you might experience swelling in your arms or legs—a result of a blockage in your lymphatic system. Treatment can reduce swelling and associated discomfort.
The lymphatic system drains lymph, a protein rich fluid, from tissue and helps fluid flow back to the circulatory system. Lymphedema occurs when that drainage system is blocked and fluid accumulates.
Untreated lymphedema may lead to weakness, stiffness, pain, numbness, pain, loss of function and impaired body image. Lymphedema can range from mild to severe, it can be temporary or permanent and it can occur immediately or several years after your surgery.
Our Approach to Lymphedema Treatment
Lymphedema treatment can be effective long after lymphedema in the arms or legs develops. Inspira physical therapists can help patients manage lymphedema through manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging, exercise and education about preventive care. The goal of therapy is to decrease the swelling in the arm or leg, assist with compression garment fittings to maintain the decrease in swelling and improve your function.
What to Know if you Have Lymphedema
If you have lymphedema, there are things you can do to assist in preventing further swelling, pain, numbness and discomfort.
- Protect the limb from being scratched, burnt or cut.
- Do not allow injections, blood draws or IVs in the involved extremity.
- Avoid close contact with pets that have claws and there is the risk of scratching.
- Wear gloves when gardening.
- Wear an oven mitt when handling hot items in the kitchen.
- Sew with a thimble to avoid pricking your fingers.
- Use an electric shaver with a narrow head for shaving your underarms. Use care when shaving.
- Do not use artificial nails and use your own tools when receiving a manicure.
Heat is harmful to your affected extremity. Protect your involved limb and avoid:
- Exposure to the sun that leads to sunburn.
- Wearing short sleeves. Wear long sleeves or your compression garment.
- Heat from saunas, hot tubs or steam rooms, which may aggravate your swelling.
- Compression of the affected arm (other than your compression garment).
- Having blood pressure taken on the affected arm.
- Tight clothes with elastic bands at the wrist or around the ankle.
- Wearing jewelry on the affected arm.
It is best to avoid intense activity of the affected arm, such as cleaning or an exercise program with high repetitions or high weights. Avoid lifting heavy packages or luggage with the affected arm. Use luggage on wheels or carrying items with the unaffected arm.
Skin irritants, such as harsh chemicals, insect bites or poison ivy can make your lymphedema worse.
Finally, be aware that airplane travel can aggravate your swelling. Always wear your compression garment when you travel by airplane.
Why Choose Inspira for Lymphedema Care
Inspira Rehabilitation Services includes eight convenient locations across South Jersey. That means when you need help getting healthy again, you never have to go very far.
When you choose Inspira for Rehabilitation Services, you get care backed by an entire health network across South Jersey. Care is easily coordinated between primary care physicians, specialists, surgeons and rehabilitation specialists, providing a more seamless patient experience.
Get personalized care for a wide range of conditions at locations across South Jersey.