Compression Bandaging for Lymphedema Treatment

In Science & Education by Steve Norton8 Comments

Compression bandaging is a key component in the treatment of stage 2 and stage 3 (moderate to severe) lymphedema and is essential for reducing swelling and maintaining progress as the patient undergoes treatment.  A soft cast is created by wrapping the arm or upper body with multiple layers of wrapping and used as a main element in the overall treatment regimen for lymphedema patients known as Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). There aren’t a great deal of studies available on the use of compression bandages alone, but the little research that is available suggests bandaging works to reduce arm volume. However, this is overwhelming clinical evidence that short stretch bandaging reduces all types of edema more efficiently and safely than any other compression method. 

When starting with compression bandaging, your lymphedema therapist should do the wrapping for you to teach you the proper technique. Most therapists will also provide written instructions to help you and some even offer instructional videos to ensure bandage is properly applied.

Compression bandaging starts with an inner liner that is made from a hosiery type gauze or fabric, known as a stockinette, that is then placed over the arm and hand. Next, a layer made of cotton, foam, or polyester is added for padding over the stockinette. Then the padding is wrapped with multiple overlapping layers of short stretch bandages. These short stretch bandages look similar to the Ace bandages commonly found in drugstores but are a lot less stretchy because they contain no elastic threads like Ace wraps. Typically, there are more layers down the arm than at the top of the arm to create a graded pressure to move fluid up and out of the arm. The bandaging should fit snugly on your arm and not be too tight.

Compression bandaging is a reductive therapy. The muscles in the arm are “held in” by the layers of bandaging for what is known as working pressure. When using your arm for regular day-to-day activities or when doing therapist-prescribed exercises while bandaged, the working pressure causes an internal pumping action that moves the fluid buildup in the tissues out into the lymphatic system. Compression bandaging works to help keep fluid from going back into the arm and is why bandaging is such an essential part of treatment for moderate to severe lymphedema that is causing painful swelling of soft tissue damage.

Compression Sleeves VS. Bandaging

Compression sleeves support the flow of lymph in the right direction but doesn’t move the fluid out of the arm. As opposed to bandages that use working pressure, compression sleeves only apply resting pressure that is higher when the arm is at rest. The pressure is reduced when you move your arm because the stretchy fabric of the sleeve moves right along with it. Compression sleeves can sometimes be enough for mild lymphedema, but more severe cases require the help of compression bandaging before a compression sleeve can be used.

Common Brands of Short Stretch Bandages

Lymphedema treatment plans will vary from person to person, but bandaging is typically done daily for several weeks as part of CDT. These bandages are worn day and night and only removed when bathing or during treatments by your therapist.

If bandaging is a part of your treatment plan, Lymphedema Products offers a wide selection of bandages to choose from. It’s recommended to purchase two sets of bandages to alternate them for washing.

Some of the common brands of soft stretch bandages that we offer are:
Rosidal K

Discomfort and swelling caused by lymphedema can get in the way of proper movement and day to day activities. The right compression bandages can help with your treatment and reduce the swelling. These are specially designed products that you can comfortably wear for hours to prevent fluid buildup in your tissues. Letting stagnant fluid build up in your body can make your lymphedema debilitating, so it makes sense to invest in the right products to manage your condition. You can find exactly what you need—from custom garments and socks to compression sleeves—at Lymphedema Products.

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