Lymphedema is a condition that causes an excessive buildup of lymphatic fluid in certain parts of the body, often resulting in swelling and discomfort. This buildup of fluid is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, which can be a side effect of cancer treatment, dysfunction of the immune system, the removal of one or more lymph nodes, or similar health issues.
Though lymphedema is most often associated with feet, legs, and arms, it can also occur in other parts of the body, like the chest, head, and neck. There is no cure for lymphedema, but there are several different treatment methods available to patients, including compression wraps.
But what are lymphedema compression wraps? How do they work? Can you put them on by yourself? How long do you need to wear them? Finally, where can you find high-quality lymphedema wraps for legs or arms?
In today’s guide, we will answer all of these questions and more, but first, let’s examine exactly how compression wraps are used to treat lymphedema.
How Compression Wraps For Lymphedema Work
As previously mentioned, there is no cure for lymphedema. As a result, treatment methods are aimed at reducing inflammation and fluid buildup over the long term. Compression wraps work by applying pressure to the swollen area. This can help reduce swelling while simultaneously promoting the movement of fluid through the lymphatic system. The extra pressure also gives the muscles a force to work against, which can help drain the lymphatic system of excess fluid, thereby reducing swelling even further. Ensuring that the pressure is even and constant throughout the area allows you to maximize the benefits of a compression wrap and alleviate any pain associated with the condition.
Though you can also use traditional compression garments to treat the symptoms of lymphedema, compression wraps are more commonly recommended by physicians and trained specialists. This is because wraps allow you to target the specific area (or areas) you want to treat and even give you (or your doctor) greater control over the degree of pressure you want to apply. For instance, if you’re just beginning treatment, your doctor may recommend a firm but gentle pressure, typically less than 20 mmHg, until the swelling begins to decrease. In the event that lower pressure is not sufficient, your doctor may recommend tightening the wraps to apply greater pressure, frequently between 20 and 40 mmHg.
For mild cases of lymphedema, you may be able to apply the wraps by yourself. However, in most cases, a trained specialist will want to measure, fit, and reapply lymphedema wraps for you. If your case is more severe, a specialist may recommend using more than one layer of wraps at the same time.
How Long Do Lymphedema Wraps Stay On?
The length of time your doctor recommends using lymphedema wraps can vary. That said, these wraps are often used as a long-term treatment to reduce swelling and fluid buildup. This means that you will likely need to wear lymphedema wraps or some form of compression wear for relatively long periods of time.
Fortunately, compression wraps are designed so that you can continue doing normal daily activities without discomfort. Additionally, most specialists will recommend that you have your wraps changed regularly for two reasons. First, wraps will naturally lose their elasticity and become less able to apply sufficient pressure over time. And second, you’ll want to be able to maintain your hygiene by changing your wraps and properly cleaning the underlying area. Consequently, you will likely need to completely replace lymphedema wraps every few months (typically 2-4 times per year).
It’s also important to note that you may not need to wear your wraps 24 hours per day. If you feel comfortable reapplying the garment yourself (and your doctor agrees), you may choose to wear the garments during the day and remove them when you’re ready to sleep. In any case, it is generally best to ensure that you have the wraps on while engaging in any kind of physical activity.
Lymphedema Leg Wraps
Lymphedema most commonly occurs in the legs. While some people may have full-leg lymphedema, others may only experience the condition in the ankle, calf, or thigh. Regardless of the applicable area, there are various styles and sizes of leg wraps to accommodate different parts of the leg. For example, FarrowWrap is one version that comes in many different sizes and designs, ensuring that you can get the compression you need for your particular condition.
If you’re currently looking for the best lymphedema wraps for your legs, be sure to check out the products available at Compression Health.
How To Wrap Legs For Lymphedema
It’s important that the wraps are applied correctly to properly address the condition and avoid any issues down the road. More specifically, you should make sure that your wraps meet all of the following conditions:
- The wraps are applied to the entire swollen area
- You can move without substantial limitations while wearing the wraps
- There are no loose parts that are unable to apply pressure
- The wraps are not so tight that it becomes painful
While you can often get instructions on how to unwrap and rewrap compression wraps from your doctor or specialist, here is a step-by-step guide to help you if you need to apply lymphedema leg wraps on your own:
- Use a mild moisturizing cream on the part of the leg where the wrap will go; this can help prevent dryness and make it easier to apply the wrap without causing discomfort
- (Optional) wrap your stockinette around the leg, starting from the foot and moving upward
- Begin wrapping your leg with the lymphedema wrap, starting at approximately 2 inches below the point of swelling and extending to a point 2 inches above the swelling
- While applying the wrap, ensure that each rotation overlaps about half of the wrap below it
- Apply multiple layers of wraps as needed, with each subsequent wrap being applied in the opposite direction (top of the swelling to the bottom of the swelling and vice versa)
- If applicable, secure the velcro wraps at the top of the wrap to keep the pressure consistent
Lymphedema Arm Wraps
Many people assume that lymphedema is specific to the legs and feet, but it can also occur in the arms and hands. Keep in mind that you may not be able to use both hands to apply this kind of wrap. For this reason, arm and hand wraps are often applied with the help of a trained specialist. Like lymphedema leg wraps, arm wraps need to apply firm pressure without restricting movement.
Upper Body Lymphedema Wraps
Though less common, lymphedema can also affect parts of the upper body, particularly the neck and chest. Since these areas require greater freedom for respiration, it is vital that you seek out the guidance of a trained medical professional before applying upper-body lymphedema wraps. You won’t want the wraps to be too tight on your chest or neck, as this could restrict breathing. Additionally, most wraps applied to the chest would be nearly impossible to put on by yourself, so you will need someone who has applied them before to provide assistance.
We hope you found this guide on lymphedema wraps useful and informative! Are you currently in the market for compression wraps or other compression wear? If so, be sure to reach out to Compression Health today!