Lymph drainage therapy is an area of physiotherapy that currently plays a significant role in the treatment of certain physical problems caused by cancer and cancer treatments. These may include swellings caused by some transient factor and, often, also more permanent complaints and illnesses that involve swelling in the subcutaneous tissue, i.e. under the skin. Such subcutaneous swelling, or oedema, is known as lymphoedema.
Manual lymph drainage therapy is a good option for these particular problems, the primary target being the functioning of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a transport system that parallels our blood vessels and blood circulation. Its most important task is to remove any excess fluid and protein building up in the tissues as a result of capillary metabolism. Lymphatic tissues also play an important role in the body’s immune defence.
Breast cancer survivors who have had lymph nodes removed from the armpit should regularly check the condition of their arms since lymphoedema may first occur several years or even decades after surgery.
Lymph drainage therapy and the associated compression, creating localised pressure and preventing reflux, aims to reduce swelling. The therapy is gentle since the lymph vessels are located superficially in subcutaneous tissue. The skin is manipulated cautiously with rotating or twisting movements that direct lymph fluid towards healthy lymph nodes and activate them to collect this fluid from a larger area than before. This helps to create new lymph vessels towards the healthy area.
According to current research data, manual lymph drainage therapy and the associated compression therapy have not been shown to activate cancer or promote its spread. The sooner the therapy is started, the better the results. Therapy can also be given during cancer treatments, provided it is considered appropriate by the physician.
Lymph drainage therapy is associated with the use of compression bandages and a custom-made compression sleeve. Lymph drainage therapy also involves providing guidance for physiotherapy and self-management. Skin care can also be provided if necessary.