Lymphedema is a stagnation of lymph – a fluid that contains infection-fighting white blood cells – that is no longer recirculating in the body. There are a variety of stages of lymphedema, and the early stages are reversible.
While it may be an outcome of cancer treatment, lymphedema has other causes. We can treat patients who have non-cancer who want relief from symptoms, and physical therapy is key.
Mild, noninvasive treatments are effective at the early stages, and they include elevation and reduction of restrictions. Grades 3 and 4 lymphedema require more dedicated treatment: manual drainage, dry skin brushing, and use of compression garments and compression pumps. A physical therapist can also alleviate lymphedema in a patient by applying massage along the path of the lymphatic system.