Have you ever wondered what causes certain parts of the body to swell? Known clinically as edema, swelling occurs as a result of the excess buildup of fluid between body tissue, causing the affected area to expand and often resulting in considerable pain.
Edema can be brought on by a number of underlying conditions and affect different areas of the body. Mild edema will usually be temporary, but in more chronic cases, doctors may recommend the use of diuretics or other medications. Massage therapy can also be an effective way of managing certain types of edema, helping to reduce fluid buildup and relieving discomfort.
Edema is most common in the legs and feet, and can be brought on by varicose veins, weak leg muscles or kidney, liver, and heart problems among other things. Registered massage therapist school students should be cautious when assessing edema in patients, and advise them to consult a physician if necessary, as massage may not be recommended in certain cases.
The condition is sometimes caused by inadequate drainage of the lymphatic system, which functions to move lymph fluid around the body, carrying proteins and white blood cells and strengthening the immune system. This is known as Lymphedema, and can arise due to congenital issues with the lymphatic system, such as defective valves or blood vessels, or as a result of another condition. The problem is quite common among cancer patients, as the disease may spread to the lymph nodes and vessels, which often have to be removed as a result.
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) can be very effective in helping patients manage lymphedema. By applying light pressure to the affected areas, a practitioner who has undergone additional training at a Vodder institute can remove excess waste and blockages from the area, allowing the lymphatic fluid to flow more freely through the lymphatic system. Many students with registered massage therapist training choose to continue their education in advanced study to work in this growing field.
A number of studies support the benefits of lymphatic drainage in managing lymphedema. Three case studies carried out in 2003 and published in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies showed significant improvements after just one standardized 45-minute session, with patients demonstrating significant fluid clearance as well as the softening of tissues in the affected limbs.
In addition, further research conducted at the University of Florence in 2011 also showed significant improvements among patients suffering from hand edema as a result of systemic sclerosis. During the study, 20 patients received MLD once a week for five weeks, with a further 15 serving as a control group. At the end of their treatment, patients who undergone MLD experienced a significant reduction in hand volume, as well as improved functionality of the hands. Patients in the control group showed no significant change.
A further study, which took place in Turkey in 2010, and was published in the International Journal of Nursing Practice, also indicated that foot massage was effective in treating venous lower leg edema in a control group of eighty pregnant women, with those who had received a 20-minute foot massage for five days showed significant decreases in the circumferences of their ankles, insteps, and joints.
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