About Lymphedema Pain
When a person suffers from lymphedema, she doesn’t just suffer from swollen limbs; she also suffers from lymphedema pain.
Pain is the body’s way of defending itself. It’s telling the body that there’s something wrong. It can be due to an injury, infection, or inflammation. Acute pain can be helpful but chronic pain, one that lasts for weeks, can be debilitating.
Lymphedema develops as a result of obstruction in the flow of the lymphatic system. When the lymph vessels cannot carry the lymphatic fluid away from the tissues, it can result to swelling of the affected area.
As the condition progresses, the nerves are compressed and there is overexertion of certain areas to cope with the swelling. People with lymphedema are more prone to infection which can lead to chronic inflammation. All these contribute to lymphedema pain.
Managing Lymphedema Pain
There are different ways to manage lymphedema pain. These include taking pain medications, relaxation techniques, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
Pain medications like acetaminophen and ibuprofen work by blocking the release of chemical called prostaglandin. Prostaglandins are the chemicals released by the cells of the injured part of the body.
Relaxation techniques like guided imagery, self-hypnosis, biofeedback, and deep breathing exercises are shown to reduce pain. In one study, it shows that relaxation can be a way to reduce the person’s pain level.
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a form of therapy that makes use of low-voltage electrical current to relieve pain. The pain relief effect can be due to the ability of electricity to stimulate the nerves of the affected site, blocking the pain signals in the brain.
The best way to address lymphedema pain is by reducing the swelling of the affected site. This can be done through manual lymphatic drainage and the use of compression garments.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a special type of massage that helps in reducing swelling from lymphedema. The aim of this massage is to move the fluid from the swollen area to an area where the lymphatic system is working sufficiently. This is not like other types of massage as it only uses gentle pressure with slow and rhythmic movements.
Use of Compression Garments
The lymphatic system makes use of the “massaging” effect of the surrounding muscles in order to move the lymphatic fluid. Compression garments, like those from Bioflect, provide enough compression on the affected limb which helps promote good flow of the lymphatic fluid and blood. These garments can be worn during exercise to encourage fluid movement.
Bioflect Therapy Garments have a wide range of compression garments that can help in managing lymphedema pain. These garments are created using the unique FIR therapy fabric, providing anyone with comfortable compression.
Image: Dan Phiffer