5 Reasons to Work with a Certified Lymphatic Therapist

A Certified Lymphatic Therapist (CLT) has received specific, lengthy instruction in the care and management of lymphedema.  Their education and training makes them qualified to work with primary and secondary lymphedema, and swelling related to surgery and other forms of trauma.  In this blog post, we’ll look at the top five reasons to work with a Certified Lymphatic Therapist, and explain what certification means to you — the client and consumer.

Certification Means Lengthy and Specific Instruction in Lymphedema Care.  135 hours of instructions is the minimum recognized by the Lymphology Association of North American (LANA) and the National Lymphedema Network (NLN).  These hours include instruction in:

  • anatomy & physiology of the lymphatic system
  • the condition of lymphedema — its causes, stages, complications, pathologies and co-morbidities
  • indications and contraindications for treatment
  • basic and advanced manual lymphatic drainage routines
  • the components of complete decongestive physiotherapy.

Certification Means a Thorough Understanding of Treatment Protocols.  Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)  is a gentle, slow, rhythmic movement of lymph fluid.  There is a specific direction, pace, and pressure involved in MLD work, and if done incorrectly, will at best be ineffective and at worst, harmful to the client or patient.  A CLT will have passed not only a written exam but also a hands-on practical to show proficiency in treatment modalities.

After many types of surgeries, including cosmetic or reconstructive surgeries, what’s known as a re-routing protocol is necessary for the correct and therapeutic movement of lymph in the affected area.  A certified lymphatic therapist will know when a re-routing routine is needed and how to utilize alternative lymph nodes to achieve therapeutic results.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage was initially developed by Emil Vodder from Denmark in the 1930s.  He developed a specific manual technique to engage the lymphatic system.  You can read his bio and about his techniques by clicking here.  Michael Foldi and Johanes Askonk from Germany helped to establish protocols and indications for treatment, as well as contraindications.  A Certified Lymphatic Therapist knows when treatment is indicated or not from having studied lymphedema complications and pathologies — some of which can rule out MLD until resolved.

Certification Means Training in the Application of Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy (CDPT/CDP/CDT).  Lymphedema is a disease for which, currently, there is no cure.  A person can be born with it, or develop it after lymph node damage or removal.  It is a progressive illness that passes through worsening stages if not treated correctly.  The most common cause of lymphedema is contraction of lymphatic filariasis from a type of parasitic worm.  Lymphatic filariasis is a tropical disease found in more than 80 countries worldwide.  Here in the U.S., lymphedema is mostly associated with cancer treatment, through the damage to or removal of lymph nodes.

Because there is no cure, only treatment, for lymphedema, it’s important to understand the full spectrum of care.  This way, treatment plans can be customized to meet individual client needs.  Certified Lymphatic Therapists are trained in the various aspects of CDPT which include:

  • MLD
  • compression therapy
  • skin care and hygiene
  • exercise
  • self-massage instruction

Receiving a diagnosis of lymphedema, or developing it following surgery or cancer treatment, can be both devastating and debilitating.  Kathy Bates, award-winning actress, cancer survivor and spokeswoman for the lymphedema community, shared her struggle with lymphedema in a powerful video which has since gone viral.  You can watch it
by clicking here.

Certification Means Training in Available Garments, Including Donning and Doffing.  Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy (CDPT) works in two phases.  During the first phase, fluid is moved out of the affected area through the application of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) and bandaging.  In the second phase, the patient or client is fitted with a graduated compression garment.  Compression garments allow the client greater independence in the management of his or her condition.  Certified Lymphatic Therapists have received training in how to measure and fit a client for garments.  They know the difference between anti-embolism stockings and true, medical-grade compression garments.  Compression therapy continues to evolve, with manufacturers offering prints, patterns and colors, in addition to flat and circular-knit products.  There are also customized velcro systems available, offering greater ease of wear.  A CLT can determine the best option(s) for clients.

Certification Means Continued Education and Access to Professional Organizations for Support and Training.  A Certified Lymphatic Therapist doesn’t stop training upon certification.  There are continuing education requirements to meet.  Compression garments get upgrades and style enhancements.  The National Lymphedema Network provides support through research articles and patient education.  A Certified Lymphatic Therapist stays up on the latest advances in treatment, including drug development and trials.  While Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy (CDPT) is the gold standard for lymphedema treatment, advancements here in the U.S. and abroad provide hope for a cure for this debilitating condition.

When looking for a lymphatic therapist, check to see that his or her qualifications include a designation of Certified Lymphatic Therapist.  Put your care in hands you can trust.  Their knowledge and expertise provide you, the client and consumer, with the confidence and assurance that your needs will be met professionally and appropriately.