Lymphoedema Care / CLT
Best practice for the management of lymphoedema has a holistic multidisciplinary approach and is provided by qualified lymphoedema therapists. The treatment method is conservative and in Australasia is termed Complex Lymphoedema Therapy (CLT).
Natasha Mueller is a qualified lymphoedema therapist and works out of Whole Health Osteopathy every Tuesday and Thursday.
What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphoedema is a chronic condition in which excess fluid (lymphatic fluid) accumulates in the tissues, causing swelling and discomfort. It occurs when the lymphatic system is damaged, blocked or removed. This can happen due to various reasons including surgery, radiation therapy, cancer, infection, or inherited conditions.
Lymphoedema is a lifelong condition that can be managed with treatment but can't be cured. Conservative treatment, through Complex Lymphatic Therapy (CLT), usually involves a combination of compression therapy, manual lymphatic drainage, exercise, skin care, and education and should be performed by a trained CLT practitioner.
Compression therapy involves applying pressure to the area to help control the swelling associated with lymphoedema. It can help prevent the redevelopment of lymph swelling in the affected area and soften any thickened tissue. Compression is a long-term treatment: if stopped, the swelling will return. Most patients respond very well to this therapy.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)
Manual Lymphatic drainage (MLD), is a specialised type of massage performed by a trained lymphoedema practitioner. It involves applying light pressure to the skin around the swollen area to stimulate the lymph vessels and improve the flow of lymph fluid. The technique used during MLD will be different for each person depending on the location of the swelling and stage of lymphoedema.
Your lymphoedema practitioner may teach you a simplified form of MLD, which you may be advised to do daily.
Regular physical activity such as walking can reduce the severity and symptoms of lymphoedema by encouraging the lymph fluid to move around the body. Flexibility exercises can help with maintaining your mobility. Your lymphoedema practitioner may develop a program of exercise tailored to your particular situation and abilities
Treatment and Maintenance
It is very important to care for your skin to prevent infections. Apply a moisturiser every day to help protect your skin. Your practitioner will advise you on which product is suitable for you.
Complex Lymphatic Treatment consists of a treatment phase and a maintenance phase. During the treatment phase, your lymphoedema practitioner will provide a combination of regular skin care, manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), exercises and compression bandaging to reduce the swelling. This phase may last for only a few days or up to several weeks Once the swelling has been reduced you will enter the maintenance phase. It is recommended that you see your lymphoedema practitioner for regular reviews every 6–12 months.
What can I expect at my first appointment?
Your practitioner will ask you to fill out a comprehensive self-assessment form for the affected limb and then an appropriate treatment plan will be devised. At that same appointment, if required, you will be measured for a compression garment. Treatment in the form of Manual Lymphatic Drainage and possibly bandaging will commence over the next couple of weeks. A doctor referral is desired but not a requirement in order to start your treatment.