This is how we managed lymphoedema here at Northern Lymphology
Why take care of your skin?
Lymphoedema is an excess of water, large proteins and waste material, which has accumulated in the tissues. This is an ideal environment for bacteria to manifest. In some cases the lymph nodes have been removed or not developed properly, therefore the local immune system maybe compromised in the swollen area. All of these factors contribute to the increased risk of developing an acute inflammatory episode (sometimes called Cellulitis). Taking care of your skin minimises the increased risk of infection which often accompanies lymphatic disorders.
How to take care of your skin
Scrupulous hygiene techniques performed to the swollen area daily will help to preserve the health of the skin. A thorough drying technique to the area should be adopted to prevent breakdown of the skin. By choosing an un-perfumed simple moisturiser/emollient and applying it daily will help to keep the skin hydrated and supple, thus preventing dryness and cracks developing (which are sites for infection). A lanolin-free cream available from your GP or Pharmacist will help with this maintenance. Advice from this clinic will help determine the best cream/emollient for you.
By AVOIDING the following you can reduce your risk of developing an infection:
- Injections to the swollen area
- Blood samples
- Cuts and grazes
- Insect bites & stings
- Scratches or bites from pets/animals
- Gardening injuries/thorn pricks etc…
- Hot water bottles/electric blankets
- If you do sustain any of the above, then contact your GP as you may need a course of antibiotics.
Please download a copy of the Consensus Document below to take with you to see your Doctor. This is the latest recommended treatment regime for cellulitis within the lymphoedema population.
SLD- simple lymph drainage
Simple Lymphatic Drainage (SLD) is a self-help treatment to maintain control of swelling in any part of the body area. It is usually performed as part of a recommended programme of treatment/care which has been advised by the Lymphoedema Specialist. It involves hand movements over specific lymph node clusters and effleurage strokes in a specific directional motion. You will be advised on the amount of pressure to use and the possibilities of other devices you could use, such as brushes.
The technique is taught to either the individual themselves or to a partner/carer/friend. Explanations of how and when to do SLD and also when to avoid doing SLD, are given and supported with written literature.
There are many variations of this technique, at Northern Lymphology Ltd, your Specialist will tailor a programme specific to your needs rather than a generic format.
Exercise and the Lymphatic System
Exercise is one of the essential cornerstones of managing lymphoedema. At Northern Lymphology we offer a holistic approach to help you manage your lymphoedema. This booklet aims to give you information on how we can work with you whilst attending the clinic during treatment and long-term in your own community. Regardless of your age a commitment to regular exercise and movement should form part of your routine, not only to enhance your lymphatic system but also your overall general well-being.
The LSN (Lymphoedema Support Network) Quote:
“Exercise usually has a very positive impact on lymphoedema and is encouraged because muscle activity helps to promote lymphatic drainage. However, it is important that you build up any activities slowly and sensibly. Take notice of how your limb responds to the exercise – if it swells, aches, feels hotter or takes longer to recover than the other limbs afterwards, then the programme may need to be adapted or reduced. Always wear your compression garments when you are exercising to support your limb.”
The Four Key Areas of physical activity recommended for adults are:-
Endurance Exercises Strength or Resistance Exercises
Flexibility or Stretching Exercises Balance Exercises
These are any activity – walking, jogging, swimming, biking, even raking leaves — that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period of time. Build up your endurance gradually, starting with as little as 5 minutes of endurance activities at a time.
Strength or resistance exercises
These exercises build older adult muscles and increase your metabolism, which helps to keep your weight and blood sugar in check. Gaining strength in the early stages of exercise is essential to ensure you begin to enjoy what you are doing and enable you to do it for longer. Exercises such as ‘wall press-ups’, standing on your tip toes, bicep curls with light weights e.g. a can of baked beans, all contribute to strengthening your muscles through resistance. Using elastic latex band are also work well in this group.
Flexibility or Stretching Exercises
These exercises can give you more freedom of movement, which will allow you to be more active during your current and more senior years. Stretching exercises alone will not improve your endurance or strength but will make other types of exercise easier to perform. Stretching allows your muscles and tissues to ‘glide’ easier which in turn enables your lymphatic fluid to drain better.
Building leg muscles, helps to prevent falls. The NHS state that around 75,000 hip fractures are treated each year in the UK. However, given the UK’s ageing population, this number is predicted to double by 2050.
If you are an older adult, balance exercises will help you avoid problems as you get older. They could also help you stay independent by helping you avoid the disabilities that could result from falling.
What to expect during your treatment at Northern Lymphology Ltd…
As part of your current and on-going treatment with us, we will introduce you to the Nordic Track E10 Elliptical Cross-trainer (as below).
The elliptical cross trainer provides a low impact form of exercise whilst optimizing cardiovascular benefits. Exercising on the trainer in a standing position is similar to walking or running which is important for building bone density. The feet remain on the footpads so there is little impact on the joints and muscles.
The arm bars and elliptical motion create similarities with cycling and skiing. Physical activity makes people happier and more satisfied with life, as well as feeling better about themselves. For example, active people:
- have an improved body image
- have higher self-esteem
- feel less anxious
- sleep better
Following an assessment, and found suitable to use the Cross trainer; a tailored programme will be compiled for you during the blocks of intensive treatment and subsequent visits, using this piece of equipment. You will be weighed and asked to fill out a series of questions which will then be repeated at the end of any given block of treatment. This will be individual to you.
It is often said that you should consult your doctor before undertaking regular exercise. It is perhaps more important to consult your doctor if you are not taking regular exercise.