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Lymphedema is a condition caused by an accumulation of lymph fluid in the upper or lower extremities. The lymphatic system is a vital component of the immune and circulatory systems. It is a system of vessels that carries lymph fluid to the heart of the body. When that system is not working properly, lymphedema can develop, which may lead to swelling in your arms and legs.

Commonly Experienced Symptoms

Symptoms of lymphedema typically occur in the arms and legs. Pain levels can vary from moderate to serious. The following symptoms of lymphedema are pretty common, and if you are experiencing them, it is important to contact a therapist as soon as possible:

  • Restricted range of motion

  • Heaviness/tightness

  • Aching/discomfort

  • Fibrosis

  • Infections

  • Swelling

Primary and Secondary Lymphedema

Many people do not realize this, but there are two categories of lymphedema:

  • Primary Lymphedema – There is not always a clear reason for primary lymphedema. It can be passed down through the generations or develop on its own.

  • Secondary Lymphedema – Secondary lymphedema happens as a result of a disease or disorder. It can also happen after a person has been treated for cancer or after a surgical procedure involving the lymph nodes. The most common causes of secondary lymphedema include radiation treatment for types of cancer or infection.

Benefits of Physical Therapy for Lymphedema Symptoms

Physical therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for the symptoms that accompany lymphedema. Manual therapy, specifically manual lymphatic drainage, may be used to aid lymph flow to the upper and lower extremities. Wrapping, compression, or complete decongestive therapy may be added to your treatment plan as your physical therapist deems appropriate.

When it comes to conditions that include persistent swelling, there are numerous complications to consider. Among them are circulatory problems, infections, and the risk of injury.

Our physical therapists will conduct a thorough examination of your condition and develop a personalized lymphedema treatment plan for you.

If you have lymphedema, we strongly recommend that you seek treatment and follow up with your doctor and physical therapist regularly to ensure that your condition does not worsen.

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