Using Laser Therapy to Manage the Swelling associated with Lymphedema
Lymphedema is the swelling that occurs in an arm or leg, when lymph transport is blocked or impaired. It can be congenital, or acquired through infection; but most frequently it occurs post surgery - and may be most associated with breast cancer.
The lymph system is an important part of our immune system. While it consists of many parts, a major part of this system is the network of cells which travel with blood vessels. This network returns proteins and excess interstitial fluid to the bloodstream. Another function of the lymph organs is to remove debris and toxins; and for this reason it is sometimes referred to as the body’s waste system. Often underappreciated or at least under-documented, it is very important to immune function and health.
Photobiomodulation, low level laser, or just laser in clinic-talk, is an effective treatment for lymphedema. It is supported by several published randomized clinical trials. A Google search shows support for the technology from both the Canadian and American Cancer Societies. Nearly 20 years ago, positive results of post surgical lymphedema of the lower leg was reported as a case study by Dr Kahn of Bioflex Laser. In 2017, Baxter et al published a supportive systemic review on the use of low level laser for breast cancer in 2017 PMID: 29216916
The Bioflex Laser stands above many other laser systems available in Canada, because of system design; the ability to modulate protocols to individual requirements; and the continuous clinical research and contribution to multi-site research which ensures effective protocols. Results to date suggest that good control of swelling, improved mobility and function can be achieved, most welcome in moderate to severe cases of lymphedema.
From a physiotherapy perspective, Laser therapy is heads and shoulders over the last therapeutic system we used, the Jobst pump! It does not pinch; it is not painful; and …it works!