AzOPT Goodyear now offers Comprehensive Lymphedema Management

Ruth Ann Larsen, a licensed physical therapist currently treating at AzOPT Goodyear, is now certified in Lymphdema management. Ruth Ann is accepting new patients immediately.

What is Lymphedema? 

Lymphedema is persistent swelling of a limb that does not go down with elevation of that limb.

What causes Lymphedema?

There are several possible causes.  We see this in post cancer treatment when lymph nodes have been removed, or when radiation treatment has damaged the lymphatic system.  Sometimes there is a lack of lymph vessels.  Other times it is due to chronic swelling from an infection.

 How can physical therapy help the chronic swelling, or Lymphedema? 

With specialized and advanced training, a certified physical therapist will develop a comprehensive management program to reduce the swelling so there are fewer infections, minimize pain, and lessen disability.

This program consists first of manual lymph drainage. Similar to massage, this very specialized treatment assists in the movement of the lymph fluid from the extremities to the heart where the fluid can return into the circulatory system.  This involves possibly opening up new pathways for the fluid to move through if the lymphedema is due to cancer.

Another way to move fluid is by use of Kinesio tape. This creates a steady, gentle stretch on the skin to assist in the opening of pathways.  Another method of treatment is compression wrapping.  This is done using short stretch bandages and padding on the limb.  The wrapping is done in layers to provide a firm cylinder around the limb that will promote the fluid to return up the lymph vessels and back to the heart.  With the wrapping on, there are specific exercises that facilitate the movement of the lymph fluid.

Once the swelling is down, it is time to measure and order compression garments that must be worn daily to maintain the reduction in swelling.

If you, or someone you know, are interested in more information, please call AzOPT Goodyear to schedule immediately!