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Lymph is responsible for transporting essential immune cells throughout the body. When lymph becomes stagnant, it causes swelling of affected tissues, which leads to pain and dysfunction. This condition called lymphedema causes the affected skin and subcutaneous tissues to become inflamed and hardened, or fibrotic.

lymphedema lymph nodes cancer treatment swelling extremity HawkGrips IASTM

Extremity swelling is a common characteristic of lymphedema.

Typically, treatment includes manual lymph drainage, a specialized hands-on technique that stimulates superficial lymph vessels to move. Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) has been proposed to increase lymph drainage from the congested areas as well as reduce skin fibrosis. IASTM can also decrease swelling and enhance functional status.

Manual Lymph-Drainage Massage

When conducting manual lymph-drainage massage, we recommend using a concave instrument (such as HG4, HG5, HG6, HG7 or the HGPro) that contours best to the patient’s body or HG8 to lightly mobilize lymph and promote drainage.

The concave instrument, or utilizing an instrument with the bevel faced downwards, will be comfortable for your patient while mobilizing the fluid. Clinicians can use the instruments the same exact way a lymphatic drainage massage would be performed with their hands!

Resources

Didem, K. et al. (2005). The comparison of two different physiotherapy methods in treatment of lymphedema after breast surgery. Breast Cancer Res Treat, 93, 49-54.

Ferrandez, J. (1996). Lymphoscintigraphic aspects of the effects of manual lymphatic drainage. J Mal Vasc, 21, 283-289.

Morgan, R.G. (1992). Complex physical therapy for the lymphoedematous arm. J Hand Surg, 17, 437-441.

Trista Barish is the director of education for HawkGrips and can be reached at tbarish@hawkgrips.com.

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