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Kimberly is an occupational therapist at Sundog Rehab with advanced training and certification in the assessment and treatment of swelling known as lymphedema. She is trained and certified in the (Dr. Albert) Leduc Method of Brussels Manual Lymph Drainage.

***If you are coming to Sundog Rehab for an initial evaluation and you have your own bandage wrapping supplies or compression garments, please bring those items with you. *** If you are coming to an appointment and need to be wrapped, there is a supply fee at the time of service.***


What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a stagnation of lymph fluid which results in swelling in a portion of the body, usually the arm or leg. Lymphedema is associated with some type of malfunction of the lymphatic system resulting in an obstruction of venous and/or lymphatice vessels or lymph nodes.

Why should Lymphedema be treated?

To best answer this question, you must first understand the normal lymphatic system. 

The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system of veins and arteries. It consists fo lymph vessels, nodes, and tissues. Lymph fluid passes through lymph nodes located throughout the body, such as in the axilla, groin, neck, abdomen, elbow, and knee. The important role of the lymphatic system is to remove impurities, including protein and bacteria, from the circulatory system and to produce cells of the immune system called Lymphocytes, that are vital in fighting bacteria and viruses.

What types of treatment are available?

The combined use of manual lymph drainage massage, compression bandaging, compression garments, exercise, and elevation have been successful in the treatment of lymphedema. The patient is instructed in long-term care management with intermittent therapy as needed.

The objectives of treatment are to reduce the swelling and to prepare the patient for a return to normal work, giving them direction and counseling to perform duties appropriate to their condition.

Our approach is holistic, with the main objective being to facilitate an improvement in the patients' quality of life and a return to a managable living and working environment.

Treatment objectives specific of manual lymph drainage massage are:

  1. To activate the lymph system in general so it can handle the extra amount of lymph.
  2. To move the lymph from the affected to healthy tissue where the systems are intact.
  3. To direct the lymph around barriers, such as scars from radiation, to healthy lymph nodes.
  4. To soften scars and make them more permable.
  5. To teach breathing exercises, and the use of the mechanical pump, if appropriate, as additional means of decreasing the edema. 
  6. To teach specific wrapping techniques to support the venous and lymph systems.
  7. To teach the patient what self-treatment can be performed.

What are the types and causes of Lymphedema?

Lymphedema can be classified as either primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema arises from a congenital abnormality of the lymphatic system. It can become evident in adolescensce (lymphedema praecox), mostly in girls and usually in the lower extremities. Lymphedema can also occur in both male and female adults (lymphedema tarda), usually between the ages 35 and 45 years old. Secondary lymphedema results from obstruction or damage to the lymphatic vessels. Secondary or acqured lymphedema can be associated with cancer, infection, inflammation, radiation, surgery, or traumatic injury. Surgical removal of a tumor adnt he adjacent lymph nodes and vessels can block lymph fluid from flowing naturally through the system. Lymphedema can occur immediately in the post-surgical period or several years later.

Is there a cure for Lympedema?

The key is early intervention and proper treatment. From such treatment, the patient would benefit from the condition being controlled which would allow the individual to lead a normal fullfilled life. This is, however, often a persistent condition. Treatment would include the instruction of self-management and evaluation adn fitting of proper compression garments which are essential factors in control.

Lymphedema is a progressive condition characterized by four main components:

  • Excessive protein in the tissues
  • Excessive fluid in the tissues
  • Chronic inflammatory reactions
  • Excessive deposition of fibrous tissues

Lymphedema, if untreated, results in an abnormal amount of protein fluid collecting in the tissues of the extremity. This stagnant, protein rich fluid not only causes tissue channels to increase in size and number, but also reduces oxygen through the transport system, which interferes with wound healing and provides a culture medium for bacteria that can result in various infections. A chronic inflammatory condition stemming from this accumulation of fluid eventually results in fibrotic or hardened tissue.