Manual Lymphatic Drainage at Alpha Health ServicesWhat is the Lymphatic System?

  • – It’s a part of your circulatory system that sits just below the skin. It is made up of  a network of vessels and nodes that move fluid (lymph) back to your heart
  • – It plays a huge role in immune function
  • – Maintains a healthy balance of fluid in your body
  • – It transports proteins and fats to provide nutrients to your cells

What is Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)?

This is a special type of massage therapy that helps to move lymphatic fluid along its drainage pathways.  The lymphatic system is very superficial, just below the skin, so it requires very light, fine movements to move lymph fluid. 

The goal with MLD is to:

  • – Reduce the fluid volume of the area being treated
  • – Soften tissue that has become hard due to fluid accumulation over an extended period of time
  • – Reduce pain
  • – Reduce symptoms of many different injuries/disorders/pathologies
  • – Improve the healing environment in the tissues

Who Can Benefit from Manual Lymph Drainage?

People who suffer from:

  • – Lymphedema
  • – Migraines
  • – Chronic Sinusitis
  • – Recent surgery – knee/hip/ankle replacement, breast reconstruction/mastectomy, etc.
  • – Tinnitus
  • – Meniere’s Syndrome
  • – Whiplash
  • – Shoulder pathologies
  • – Recovery from fractures
  • – Arthritis
  • – Stroke
  • – Multiple Sclerosis

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is chronic swelling (edema) caused by a buildup of fluid (lymph) due to a malfunctioning lymphatic system.

  • – Primary Lymphedema – a result of a genetic underdevelopment of the lymphatic system present from birth
  • – Secondary Lymphedema – damage to the lymphatic system usually from a trauma like surgery or radiation

When the lymph vessels are unable to transport fluid to the proper areas of drainage, fluid accumulates.  This results in a buildup of protein rich fluid which causes hardening of the skin. If it goes untreated, it can lead to more serious skin changes and infections.

Who is at Risk for Developing Lymphedema?

You are at a higher risk if you have a history of any of the following:

  • – Cancer treatment including surgery or radiation
  • – Lymph node removal
  • – Chronic venous disease
  • – History of skin infections i.e. cellulitis
  • – Overweight
  • – Family history of chronic swelling

What are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?

  • – Feelings of heaviness, fullness or tightness in the affected area
  • – Sudden or gradual swelling in the arm or leg; can also be in the trunk, chest, head or neck
  • – Changes in the texture of the skin
  • – Clothing or rings feel tight or no longer fit

What is the treatment for Lymphedema?

Combined Decongestive Therapy:

  • – Manual Lymph Drainage
  • – Compression Bandages & Garments
  • – Skin Care
  • – Exercise

It’s a very relaxing treatment and many people are able to fall asleep during the course of the treatment.

What are Compression Bandages or Garments?

Compression bandages and garments are are used to help control swelling. 

Bandages will need to be purchased from your therapist. These bandages are then applied after a Manual Lymph Drainage treatment by your lymphedema therapist. They are worn for a 24-48 hr period and then reapplied. Your therapist can teach you how to apply them on your own.

Garments are purchased from a garment fitter. They can be taken on and off and there are different garments for day and night wear. Garments are prescribed by a medical doctor on the advice of your lymphedema therapist. Garments can be purchased during your initial visit, and will be used for the duration of your treatment.

What to expect for a Lymphedema Treatment Plan

A treatment plan varies depending on each individual and at what stage of Lymphedema the patients presents with when coming for for their initial assessment.

  1. Doctor’s Referral
    A referral from your GP or oncologist is required prior to coming in for treatment for Lymphedema. This is to ensure that you are diagnosed with Lymphedema that there is not another pathology that’s causing the edema (swelling). Your doctor can also review your health history to confirm that there are no contraindications for treatment.
  2. Initial Assessment
    A thorough health history will be taken with specific questions surrounding your Lymphedema. Measurements will be taken of the affected and unaffected sides. Measurements will be taken throughout various points in the treatment to monitor the affected area and to see the effectiveness of the treatments. Treatment plan is discussed at this time.
  3. Intensive Treatment Phase
    Ideally treatments are performed daily or as frequently as possible for 2-4 weeks depending on the severity of the Lymphedema. Manual Lymph Drainage is performed and then compression bandages are applied after each treatment. The compression bandages are worn for 24 hrs, until the next treatment. As indicated, this is an intensive treatment with the goal to reduce the affected area as much as possible. Skin care will be discussed and exercises will be provided.
  4. Maintenance Phase
    This is when the affected area has reduced to a more manageable size and the patient will then be fitted for a compression garment. Your massage therapist will be able to provide you with recommendations on where to find a garment fitter. Manual Lymph Drainage will be done to maintain the size of the affected area and will be less frequent. The frequency all depends on the individual case and will be discussed with the patient. The patient should continue to practice proper skin care protocols and continue with their exercises.

Who Can Perform Treatments for Lymphedema Patients?

You will want to have a healthcare practitioner who is certified in Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) and Combine Decongestive Therapy (CDT). They are usually Registered Massage Therapists, Physiotherapist, or Nurses. 

Our Registered Massage Therapist, Karen Kingsley, was certified in the most extensive and thorough program in MLD & CDT through the Dr. Vodder School International. Through her own personal journey through breast cancer, she has a special focus in her massage practice to help cancer patients who are at risk or who have developed Lymphedema.

Rates:

60 minutes: $105 (HST included)

90 minutes: $145 (HST included)

Bandage (one time fee): Pricing to be determined upon initial assessment

If you have any questions about if MLD is suitable for you and your condition, do not hesitate to contact us at info@alphahealthservices.ca

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References:

Canadian Lymphedema Framework

Lymphedema Association of Ontario

Dr Vodder School International