Is Acupuncture Recommended for Lymphadema Treatment?
The conventional and largely effective methods of treatment for lymphadema include manual lymph drainage, bandaging, exercise and skin care. However many lymphedema patients are curious to know about alternative treatments that may provide relief from this debilitating condition. Acupuncture is one such alternative therapy that is evoking great interest among people who have some sort of connection with lymphedema.
With a weakened immune system, lymphedema sufferers are at a very high risk of contracting bacterial infection. Therefore, they are advised to avoid any kind of puncture wound on their body as it can be an entry point for bacteria and cause infections. Wounds, especially in the affected area, tend to leak the fluids outside the body causing scarring as the fluid is very caustic. Acupuncture therapy uses the process of inserting needles into certain regions of the body and therefore, common sense would say that this therapy is not recommended for a person having lymphedema.
Doctors advise patients to avoid stressing the affected body part by drawing blood or taking an injection at that spot. In case of arm lymphedema, even blood pressure monitoring of the arm is avoided. Inserting a needle into the lymphadema arm or leg means opening a pathway for the bacteria to enter the body, an invitation to worse complications. Therefore, acupuncture is not a recommended form of treatment for lymphedema. Apart from that, there is no documentation to prove that it can be an effective therapy. There are, however, other ailments that may benefit from acupuncture, but for lymphedema, it is contraindicated.
Despite all the reservations put forth by the medical experts, there are few patients who swear by acupuncture and think it to be an effective cure for lymphedema. The rationale is that the acupuncture needles need not be inserted into the affected body part to gain relief. They can be inserted into the body at a location remote from the affected area. Those patients who would like to go ahead any try out acupuncture therapy should first consult their doctor to assess the suitability to their individual condition. And even if they do decide to go ahead with the therapy, they must ensure that certain basic precautions are taken during the procedure.
Before opting for acupuncture, a person at a risk for lymphedema or one who is already suffering from it must inform the therapist of the condition before hand. There are some vital safety precautions that the acupuncture therapist takes while performing this procedure. The area is wiped clean or sterilized before inserting long and thin needles that are also sterilized. The needles are twirled or stimulated electrically to improve the effectiveness. Once the procedure is complete, the area is wiped clean once again. In case of a lymphadema patient, the acupuncturist must be extra careful so that no infection sets in through the puncture marks.
In conclusion, it can be said that if acupuncture therapy is to be performed on a lymphedema patient and needles are to be placed on the swollen arm or leg, it is not a recommended treatment. However, if the needles will not be placed on the affected limb, then it could be beneficial to alleviate certain other ailments or symptoms. Another factor to be borne in mind is that the acupuncture treatment will not have any lasting effects without compression bandaging. If the patient experiences a reduction in swelling as a result of acupuncture, using compression garments or bandages could help in maintaining the reduction. Otherwise, it will only be a stop gap treatment for lymphedema.
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