Lymphedema refers to the swelling that can happen when fluids build up in your lymph nodes. A lymph system that is working as it should will naturally move waste and excess fluid through your body using your normal muscle movements.
Lymphedema may be caused by inherited conditions that cause problems with the lymphatic system’s development. This is called primary lymphedema and is very rare. More common is secondary lymphedena, which is usually caused by the removal or alteration of lymph nodes, most often because of surgery. The altered lymph system is no longer able to remove excess waste and fluid, and the buildup causes swelling in one or more of the limbs.
Learn more about actress Kathy Bates’s struggle with lymphedema here.
In the United States, lymphedema is most often caused by breast cancer treatment, though it is common result of treatment from other types of cancer as well. Lymphedema will occur in 50% of breast cancer survivors.
Lymphatic massage can help clear fluid when the lymph system no longer functions effectively. While lymphatic massage should be started under the guidance of a licensed therapist who has experience working with cancer patients (or patients with your specific diagnosis), it can be continued at home on your own.
In the below video, lymphedema therapist Vicki Ralph shows us how to self-administer basic lymph drainage techniques. She directs us to keep a relaxed hand and gently stretch our skin. This is not a deep-tissue massage, and it can be performed by most anyone.
There’s no need to have super muscular forearms or know all about aroma therapy to effectively perform this type of massage! Check out the video below to see how accessible it can be!
Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.