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Specialized Therapies

  201-833-3085    |      physicalrehab@holyname.org

Physical Therapy for Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a medical condition identified by swelling in the arms or legs. It occurs when there is a blockage in the lymphatic system, which collects and drains excess fluid in the body. Lymphedema is mostly commonly caused by cancer biopsies and treatment, infection and scar tissue.

Holy Name Medical Center has specially-trained physical therapists who work with patients to devise a personal plan that helps control the swelling and restores function to the affected limb. They understand the discomfort and pain that is caused by the condition and provide compassionate care using an integration of treatment approaches.

How do physical therapists help treat lymphedema?

Depending on the severity of the condition, physical therapists will work with each patient using a combination of different treatments to help reduce the swelling. These include:

  • Exercise
  • Compression garments
  • Elevation of the affected limb
  • Complete decongestive therapy – a two-step process involving manual lymphic drainage, which is similar to a light massage, followed by compression bandaging.
Managing the condition

Once the limb's swelling has decreased, Holy Name's physical therapists will continue providing their expertise and support to help each patient manage the condition by providing the following services:

  • Develop a safe exercise program that increases physical fitness without straining the affected limb
  • Update compression garments to ensure proper fit and that they meet each patient's individual needs
  • Education about a diet that helps prevent fluid buildup in tissues
  • Instruction on proper skin care to reduce the risk of infection
How to help prevent lymphedema

In patients at risk for developing lymphedema, such as those who have had radiation therapy or had lymph nodes removed, physical therapists can help reduce those risks. Together with the patient, they will:

  • Develop a safe and sensible exercise program that improves overall fitness; avoids straining the affected limb; and averts weight gain that many increase the chances of developing lymphedema
  • Periodically assess the size of the affected limb and if it has increased, provide early intervention to keep the swelling from getting worse
  • Provide education on a proper diet that will help decrease fluid buildup
  • Offer instruction on skin care that can help reduce the risk of infection

All physical therapists at Holy Name are certified by the American Physical Therapy Association.

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training
Colleen Maguire

People working on rebuilding their strength after an illness or surgery can participate in a safe and effective method of physical therapy that will help them recover more quickly. Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training is a technique, long used by military and athletic trainers, that is available in physical therapy regimens at Holy Name Medical Center.

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) training

Holy Name physical therapists have been specially trained in BFR, which works with a surgical grade tourniquet, similar to a blood pressure cuff. The tourniquet is put on a patient's limb to restrict blood flow from the limb back to the heart, and to a lesser extent the blood flowing to the affected area, while the patient is doing low resistance exercises.

The blockage temporarily deprives the muscles of oxygen and allows blood to pool in the area. This lack of oxygen increases growth hormones, muscle hypertrophy and muscle strength. Once the tourniquet is removed, the oxygen, proteins and other nutrients that gathered in the pooled blood rush to the injured or affected area. This intensifies the workout - making lighter exercises produce the same benefits as a much higher resistance routine.

The cuff can be placed on the shoulder to benefit the arm, shoulder and upper extremities or on the hip to help areas of the leg and core. It has been found to be very effective in patients of all ages, with individuals getting stronger faster and with less risk of injury.

BFR is especially beneficial to patients recovering from injury, infirmity or inactivity, as well as the elderly, who cannot safely tolerate a moderate-to-high intensity resistance exercise needed to maximize muscle strength and speed recovery. There is no risk of blood clots and is appropriate for patients of all ages, provided the individual doesn't have an underlying illness such as untreated high blood pressure.

The American Physical Therapy Association recognizes BFR as part of the scope of practice for therapists trained in the technique. Patients should not try this on their own - physical therapists specially trained in BFR know how to conduct these workouts to optimize benefits while preventing injury.

For more information, call 201-833-3085.

Pediatric Eating Disorders

Swallowing, something most people do without even thinking about it, requires the use of 26 muscles and six cranial nerves working together. For some infants and children, this process does not start naturally or is disrupted, which can lead to pediatric feeding disorders.

To help determine whether a child is just a picky eater or may have a more serious condition, see the list below of different behaviors a child may display during feeding to indicate a possible feeding disorder. Overall, if a child has inadequate weight gain or ongoing weight loss, an evaluation is recommended. If your child displays one or more of these symptoms, however, call the number indicated on the left to set up an appointment for an evaluation.

Behaviors that may indicate a pediatric feeding disorder:
  • Inadequate weight gain or ongoing weight loss
  • Ongoing vomiting, choking or coughing during mealtime
  • History of traumatic choking incident
  • Inability to transition to baby food purees by 10 months of age
  • Inability to transition from breast/bottle to cup by 16 months of age
  • Food range of less than 20 foods
  • Oral motor weakness
  • Mealtime tantrums
  • Ritualistic behaviors during mealtimes
  • Extreme pickiness based on food type and/or texture
  • An infant who cries/or arches at most meals
  • Parent reports that the child is difficult for everyone to feed

Holy Name Medical Center has specially trained speech-language pathologists who can assess and treat children with feeding disorders. Left untreated, a child with this condition may fail to thrive physically, emotionally, cognitively or socially.

Contrary to the myth that all children will eat when they're hungry, eating is a learned experience and because of a number of circumstances, some children will associate eating with a painful or undesired experience. When this connection is made, children need help unlearning that association.

Holy Name's therapists use the Sequential Oral Sensory (SOS) approach while working with young patients and their families. They integrate posture, sensory, motor, behavior/learning, with medical and nutritional factors to evaluate and manage children with pediatric feeding disorders, including swallowing disorders, known as dysphagia. They work to ensure patients gain weight and grow, obtain age-appropriate oral motor skills and accept a wide range of foods.

For more information, call 201-833-3085.