Lymphedema is a result of an unhealthy lymphatic system. When a person has lymphedema, excess lymph fluid collects in his or her tissues and it does not dissipate on its own. One way of treating lymphedema is through decongestive lymphatic drainage. A licensed physical therapist will help in gently releasing the fluid through specialized massage techniques using twisting and contracting movements.
As the physical therapist treats, his or her techniques act like a pump helping the lymphatic channels release the fluid out of the tissues. This process is normally slow-paced. DLD can help to jumpstart the nervous system, relaxing the muscle, decreasing the patient’s pain and discomfort.
Common DLD treatment positions call for the patient to lie on his or her stomach, or his or her back—depending on where the affected area is on the body. The therapist may or may not use a massage lotion or oil to eliminate chaffing of the patient’s skin while treating. Symptoms can be reduced in as little as 30 minutes. Treatments normally last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes, and the physical therapist usually sends the patient home with a home exercise program. The home exercise program will help keep symptoms at bay.
Some DLD sessions might be intense, two to three days per week over the first six weeks of treatment. If the patient is improving, the treatments may only occur every forty days, depending on their progress. If the lymphedema symptoms appear to be under control, only maintenance and follow-ups should be necessary—one session every six weeks.