Most people are aware of physical therapy for musculoskeletal complaints, but these are not the only conditions that physical therapy can treat. Depending on their training and specialties, therapists may be able to provide services such as imbalance physical therapy, which helps to treat conditions of the vestibular system, and therapy to treat lymphedema.
Causes and Symptoms of Lymphedema
Lymph is a protein-rich bodily fluid that functions as part of the immune system. The lymphatic system, including the lymph nodes, moves it through the body. If something is wrong with the lymphatic system, the fluid can build up in the tissues of the body, often in the arms and legs.
Edema is the medical term for swelling. Lymphedema refers specifically to swelling that occurs due to a buildup of lymph in the tissues. Lymphedema physical therapy can help to treat it.
Lymphedema is common in people who have or have had cancer. A tumor can cause a blockage in the lymphatic system, resulting in swelling. Radiation treatments can also damage the lymphatic system. Cancer treatment sometimes also involves surgical removal of the lymph nodes, which can result in lymphedema.
However, cancer is not the only possible cause of lymphedema. It can occur due to a congenital defect of the lymphatic system or a traumatic injury to it.
There are four different stages of lymphedema. Stage 1, the mildest stage, causes no visible symptoms. Stage 2 causes visible swelling, and if you press down or squeeze the area of swelling, it leaves a dent behind that takes a while to fill back in. The scientific term for this is pitting edema. Stages 3 and 4 cause permanent, non-pitting edema. This results in skin changes and deformity of the limb.
Best Treatments For Lymphedema
Treatment for lymphedema is most effective when the condition is in its early stages. There are two main ways that going to a physical therapy clinic in Oklahoma City, OK, can help treat lymphedema. A therapist with special training can perform manual lymph drainage.
This is a technique that involves decreasing swelling by moving the trapped fluid by applying light pressure through massage-like movements to the affected tissue. A physical therapist can also teach you exercises that move excess fluid out of the affected limb through gentle muscle contractions.
A physical therapist may also be able to apply compression bandages to the affected limb or supply you with compression garments. These work by putting continuous pressure on the limb to push the fluid back into the functioning lymphatic system. Physical therapy in the early stages of lymphedema may prevent it from progressing, thus avoiding skin changes and other complications that can result in the later stages.
How To Find a PT for Your Needs
You do not need a referral from a doctor to see a physical therapist in Oklahoma. Nevertheless, because your doctor is familiar with your condition and the providers in your area that treat it, asking your doctor for recommendations can be a good idea. You can also ask for recommendations from family or friends who have experienced similar symptoms or do an internet search. Don’t wait; the longer lymphedema progresses, the harder it is to treat.