You’ve probably heard of a lymph node, but do you know what they do? Well, as part of a larger network called your lymphatic system, these nodes plays a big role in assisting your body in removing waste and preventing fluid buildup, a pretty important role wouldn’t you say?

While you can live without some of your lymph nodes, it can present a problem when it comes to fluid buildup or blockage, just ask Mahaska Health Physical Therapist and Lymphedema Specialist Lauren Terpstra.

Why would you be missing a lymph node, having a blockage or experiencing this swelling you might ask? Well, here are a few reasons:

  • Removed for testing
  • Removed because of cancer, particularly breast cancer
  • Surgery required cutting through or damaging a lymph node
  • An infection
  • Obesity or inactivity
  • Chronic venous insufficiency

While you may not want to lose a lymph node or two, sometimes it’s a necessary procedure to ensure your body is healthy! If you do have a lymph node removed or develop a blockage, you can develop lymphedema, which commonly presents as swelling in an arm or leg, sometimes both, and it does not decrease over time! This swelling can develop immediately or sometimes several years later and can make your limbs feel heavy and tight, while also limiting your range of motion, making it downright uncomfortable! Frequent infections and the hardening of your skin can also occur, which is no fun. Thankfully, there are specialists like Lauren to help you reduce swelling and discomfort through techniques such as:

Specialized manual drainage techniques to help mobilize the fluid
Compression garments and wraps to help increase fluid movement and reduce swelling
Education on exercises to help you perform daily tasks such as getting dressed or lifting above your head
While there’s no magic cure for lymphedema, seeing a specialist can help make the condition much more manageable. Who knew such a small piece of us could have such a big impact on our bodies!