Any obstruction in the lymphatic vessels will prevent the smooth flow of the fluids in the body and lead to a pooling effect. This is the cause for lymphedema or swelling, particularly in the extremities of the body. Lymphedema massage is conducted to stimulate the obstructed lymph flow and direct it to the bloodstream. Excess fluid is eliminated from the body along with waste material in the elimination process.
Traditionally, a massage is aimed at relaxing the muscles, loosening the tendons and ligaments. Firm strokes applied with pressure serve to increase the arterial blood flow, thus relaxing the tense muscles. With lymphedema, the massage technique is different. With a gentle rhythmic movement, the massage therapist will stimulate the flow of lymph to the blood stream. This is known as manual lymph drainage, performed with a gentle touch. Combined with other methods of therapy like use of compression garments, compression bandaging, exercise and skin care, lymphedema massage has proven to be an effective method of treatment.
Extreme care should be taken while performing manual lymph drainage. Too much pressure on the skin may inadvertently increase the blood flow, leading to accumulation of water in the tissues which is not a good sign. It may lead to unnecessary complications for a lymphedema patient. It is therefore advisable to visit a trained massage therapist who has the knowledge of the techniques of manual lymph drainage and is also aware of the contraindications.
A lymphedema massage done rightly can prove to be extremely useful to the patient. But the effectiveness of the massage lies in the skill of the therapist to direct the flow of lymph correctly. Therefore, training is essential for manual lymph drainage. The patient may himself learn the technique – it is the ideal way to keep lymphedema in check. Another essential factor is to keep note of the progress or the decline of the condition after beginning the lymphedema massage treatment. If the condition worsens, you may have to reassess your options and make the changes accordingly.
Whether a massage can prevent lymphedema is a matter of debate. However, the fact remains that a massage therapy can have a very soothing effect which, in many instances, helps to alleviate the pain and swelling, post surgery. It helps a patient relax and deal better with the trauma and stress that is the result of the painful condition.
The body can heal itself much faster due to the therapeutic effect of the lymphedema massage. Nevertheless, it is advisable to use the services of a massage therapist, especially trained to deal with lymphedema patients. Patients who are at high risk of contracting lymphedema must remain alert to the earliest signs of the disease and opt for preventive measures to keep the problem at bay.