Lymphodema occurs when the lymphatic system is is damaged by surgery, cancer radiotherapy or other conditions. Sinéad Cobbe is an expert Chartered Physiotherapist and trained specialist in the management of lymphoedema. Using a range of treatment methods, she helps patients to gain control of their oedema and teaches them how to successfully manage it for themselves.
What causes lymphoedema?
Every day our arms and leg swell up and return to their normal size constantly. The fluid balance on our limbs is cleverly maintained by our lymphatic system. Lymph vessels are shaped like veins and run up our arms and legs beside our veins, collecting any excess fluid. The fluid (or lymph) then passes through the lymph nodes in the arm pit or groin and is filtered. After this, the lymph is emptied into the blood vessels in the neck and trunk and returned to the bloodstream. Lymphoedema occurs when this complex system of fluid collection is damaged by surgery, cancer radiotherapy or other conditions. As a result the following can happen:
- The arm or leg swells
- The skin can become harder to the touch
- You are more likely to get cellulitis of your skin
- Tingling and pain/tightness in the swollen limbs can occur
- Activities can be restricted by the swelling
- Clothing can be difficult to wear
Physiotherapy for lymphoedema
“Complex decongestive physiotherapy” is the name given to the field of physiotherapy that is involved in lymphoedema treatment. It doesn’t claim to cure lymphoedema because many of the causes are not reversible. It does, however, provide you with a way of gaining control over the oedema and then managing it for yourself. It involves a number of steps: lymphoedema massage, bandaging, compression garments, skin care, exercise and kinesiotaping. Click here to read an article written by Sinéad which outlines these steps in detail.
How long does it take to see an improvement?
Most people start noticing improvements within a week of starting the treatment. Usually, a combination of all of the above techniques is used, depending on the particular causes of your lymphoedema. You are then given ‘homework’ to do in between treatment. In order to be effective, the treatment regime has to be a joint effort between you and your physiotherapist. We aim to make you independent in the management of your lymphoedema as soon as possible, usually within a few weeks. You may then only need a few treatments a year to maintain your limb volume and skin condition.
We would be delighted to help you. You can make an appointment by ringing our reception on 061-201444, or contacting us by email.