Illawarra & Shoalhaven
Lymphoedema is a chronic progressive condition that can have a profound impact on the physical, psychological and psychosocial wellbeing of individuals. Physiotherapy can help.
Lymphoedema occurs when there is excessive accumulation of high protein fluid in an area of the body. This causes swelling, tissue inflammation, increased fatty tissue deposits and fibrosis of the affected area. Individuals with lymphoedema may notice signs and symptoms of:
– Fullness or heaviness in the affected area
– Clothes and jewellery feeling tighter
– Swelling that changes across the course of the day
– Swelling worsened by heat, sustained positions, inactivity and overuse
– Swelling may get better with exercise, compression, massage and elevation
Lymphoedema cannot be cured but it can be reduced and managed to prevent progression with appropriate therapy. Complex Lymphoedema Therapy (CLT) is considered best practise management for
lymphoedema. The best outcomes for clients occur when intervention occurs during the early stages however lymphoedema therapy can help clients at any stage to achieve better physical and mental outcomes, and ultimately lead a more meaningful and fulfilled life.
Jenny Romanczukiewicz has completed accredited lymphoedema training in head and neck, leg, arm, genital and breast lymphoedema management via Macquarie University ALERT program. She is accredited via the Australasian Lymphoedema Association, AHPRA registered physiotherapist and a member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA). Jenny is also a member of the cancer, palliative care and lymphoedema APA special interest group. Read more about our team.
What is lymphoedema physiotherapy?
Lymphoedema physiotherapy involves complex lymphoedema therapy (CLT) in combination with traditional physiotherapy including stretching, strengthening, fatigue management and education. CLT is a holistic and often multidisciplinary care approach that is considered best practise management for lymphoedema.
CLT involves an intensive reduction phase to reduce limb size and improve tissue condition. Once this is achieved, clients move into a maintenance phase where long term management strategies are used to prevent deterioration of condition. CLT is individualised and may not require all components but can involve the following:
- Massage (manual lymphatic drainage)
- Compression therapy (bandaging, wraps, pumps and/or garments)
- Skin care
- Low level laser therapy
- Kinesiology taping
Our physiotherapists are highly trained and can support you to optimise your condition through the intensive phase and empower you with an individualised maintenance program to allow you to take control of your condition and live your best life following therapy.
What can lymphoedema physiotherapy help with?
A lymphoedema physiotherapist can help you with the symptoms of lymphatic dysfunction and empower you to take control of your condition. Lymphoedema physiotherapists can assist with:
- Heaviness and tightness in affected body part
- Tissue changes due to chronic lymphoedema such as skin thickening, fibrosis and pitting
- Limb volume differences due to swelling
- Restricted movement of limbs
- Scar tissue release and healing
- Management of axilla web syndrome and cording
- Education about and prescription of safe and appropriate exercises for lymphoedema
- Education and development of long term management plans
- Early intervention for lymphoedema to prevent progression to clinical lymphoedema
- Tightness of muscles and tissues following cancer therapies
- Prescription of compression garments
- Oedema reduction and comfort in palliative clients
- Oedema following venous thrombosis and for chronic venous diseases
- Lipoedema assessment and management
What should I expect from our first session and what should I bring?
During our initial 60 minute consultation, your physiotherapist will ask you about your current concerns and about your recent and past medical history. Your physiotherapist will then assess your lymphoedema to determine the best treatment plan. If you have previously been using compression therapy please bring your garments to your appointment as well as past medical history details details of current medications, results of any recent blood tests or circulation tests (eg doppler ultrasounds).
Do I need a referral to see a lymphoedema physiotherapist?
No. Physiotherapists in Australia are primary care practitioners, meaning you do not need a referral. You simply ring up to book a consultation, or book online. Many people choose to get a referral from their specialist or general practitioner to assist their physiotherapist in understanding their condition and medical history which can be beneficial due to complex nature of oedema.
I have previously used compression and it did not work, why should I try this again?
Compression comes in many shapes and forms. It can vary according to the garments compression level as well as fabric stiffness which can all affect fit, comfort and effectiveness in controlling your oedema. Compression garments are not a one size fits all and must take into account your unique body dimensions, your comfort and tolerance, cause of your oedema as well as your goals and preferences for therapy. A collaborative approach between client and therapist is essential to ensure that your therapy meets your goals and is achievable with your lifestyle and unique circumstances.
Do you accept NDIS payment?
We welcome self-managed and plan-managed NDIS participants. Unfortunately, we are not an NDIS registered provider which means we are unable to process payments for NDIS managed participants.
How does NDIS work?
The NDIS is Australia’s first national scheme for people with disability. Learn about your eligibility and how to apply for the NDIS at https://www.ndis.gov.au or call 1800 800 110.
Can I claim treatments from my private health fund?
If you have extras cover, you can generally claim a rebate for your individual physiotherapy consultation from your health fund by either submitting your receipt directly to your fund, or swiping your health fund card in our HICAPS machine at the clinic. The amount of rebate will depend on the health fund and your level of cover. Some levels of cover will provide a rebate for the exercise classes and this can be claimed directly from the health fund. Some extras cover will also cover medical grade compression (please contact your private health provider for further details regarding your specific level of cover)
Am I eligible for Medicare claims?
You may be eligible for a Medicare rebate of up to 5 sessions per calendar year as lymphoedema is classified as a chronic condition. Your GP is able to prescribe you a Chronic Disease Management Plan (previously called the EPC plan) if you meet the eligibility criteria.
Will appointments be at the clinic or can I organise a home visit instead?
We offer clinic-based appointments as well as community visits. We believe in supporting clients of all mobility and frailty levels, which is why we offer home visits for those that cannot attend the clinic. The cost of travel will be calculated as the time taken to drive from the clinic to the agreed location and back at the same hourly rate as the therapy session.