Professional medical care following surgery for cancer or certain injuries doesn’t end when you go home from the hospital. There is actually a whole journey of recovery that can take place with the assistance of quality home health care, like the services provided by Above and Beyond Home HealthCare.
For instance, people who have undergone mastectomies or other surgical treatments for breast cancer or injuries to their shoulders, chests or lymph nodes may end up suffering from a condition called lymphedema.
When the body is working as it’s supposed to, the lymph nodes send fluid throughout the body that helps prevent infections and eliminate waste through smooth muscle tissue.
But if the system is disrupted by surgery, other traumas, or if one or more of the nodes need to be removed, some of the pathways of the glands throughout the body may be covered or clogged, resulting in the fluid building up and going places it isn’t supposed to. Some types of lymphedema also may have genetic causes unrelated to trauma.
This build-up of fluid, called lymphedema, can cause swelling and pain, fatigue, burning sensations, even leaking if the fluid build-up is excessive. Untreated, it can lead to infection and permanent damage, including loss of motion especially to limbs and extremities like fingers and toes.
While lymphedema could be a chronic condition in some patients, there are various tools that can help reduce or control swelling and get fluid properly circulating again. These can include certain kinds of compression bandages, sleeves, clothing, or fluid pumps. But one of the more effective methods is a massage that helps improve the circulation process and unclog some of the lymphatic channels.
Different kind of treatments
Patients themselves can learn some of these techniques, and some therapists may assign them some basic self-care exercises, especially immediately after surgery so they can start getting the fluids moving in the right direction and begin to minimize the ability for it to stagnate in the body.
But in some cases, these techniques can be advanced, so someone with training in lymphatic massage may be the best person to perform the full massage procedure correctly.
For instance, a lymphedema massage is intended to be less relaxing and therapeutic, and more about how to properly stimulate the lymphatic vessels, drain fluids and improve overall circulation. Something vigorous or energetic, like a Swedish or on-site deep tissue massage, can actually increase fluid build-up and potentially make things worse for the patient.
A proper lymphedema massage from a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, or CLT, uses specific techniques that move fluid towards the heart, up the arms, around the shoulders, and in other directions. Other techniques are as easy as raising the affected limbs while lying down, which will let gravity move the fluid.
During early phases of treatment, for instance, patients are encouraged to wear compression items, especially bandages, to keep swelling to a minimum.
Skin care is also important, especially if swelling or leaking is already taking place. That can make the skin more fragile, prone to bruising and easy to infect. Some clothing or accessories like watches or bracelets may no longer fit or be painful.
Home health services
In addition to home health care nurses, many home health care agencies are able to provide the services of other medical professionals, such as occupational or physical therapists.
One of these skilled positions that agencies offer is a lymphedema therapist, which is someone who has received extensive training in the correct procedure and how to make sure patients can achieve positive results over time and gain mobility.
Along with being trained to perform the massage procedures themselves, these lymphedema massage therapists also know how to teach others, such as patients or their caregivers, to right ways to perform certain variations or at least basic massages, especially if a full massage can’t be performed on a frequent basis. Some insurance programs, for instance, may only authorize a certain number per week or month, but more frequent massages, even on a smaller scale, can help in overall treatment and improve movement.
The lymphedema therapist can provide other services to patients and caregivers wanting to learn more about the condition and how to treat it, including exercises.
For instance, he or she can advise on the best tools to reduce inflammation when the patient is awake and when they’re sleeping, such as compression bandages.
The therapist, sometimes collaborating with a caregiver, home health nurse or other professionals can also offer suggestions for things like skin care and other exercises.
Home health care professionals can also work with patients for their mental health needs as well. The pain of lymphedema, from general achiness to feeling overweight can be tiring and often can lead to depression. Because depression can have some physical components, depressed patients may have less motivation to do their daily exercises or even want to move, which could further aggravate their lymphedema.
A home health care agency can be encouraging and supportive, and also offer the patient hope that the condition can be improved and fluids can be reabsorbed.
Overall, a home health care team can offer direct help with lymphedema and also encourage the patient to help themselves. For more information, including treatment options, visit Above and Beyond Home HealthCare.