Oedema (or edema) describes a condition in which bodily tissues become swollen and painful as a result of excess fluid retention. The condition is quite common and is most often seen in the legs and feet of pregnant women or the elderly. Medication together with exercise and appropriate massage can help alleviate pain and reduce swellings.
Oedema is usually caused as a result of another underlying issue. It can affect anyone in almost any part of the body, but swollen legs and feet are the most commonly reported.
The underlying causes vary from person to person. It is usually not life threatening but in some cases suffering from edema may be an indication of a more serious disease. You should therefore always seek advice from your general practitioner before embarking on any form of treatment for edema.
There are several types of specific massage techniques that are believed to help reduce fluid retention, especially in the legs and feet.
The underlying cause of the edema is an important factor in establishing which massage style is likely to work best for you.
Probably the most widely recommended massage style for dealing with the type of fluid retention that causes pain and swelling in oedema is Lymphatic Drainage massage.
A qualified lymphatic drainage therapist uses light strokes around the lymph nodes to stimulate them back into action, clear blockages and encourage any excess retained fluids to be drained away.
Edema is often found in people who are overweight or clinically obese. Anti-cellulite or slimming massage techniques apply specially designed movements to also get the body’s lymphatic system working better but through targeting different areas.
This type of treatment uses a significantly firmer style than that used for lymphatic drainage. Instead of working directly around the lymph nodes, an anti-cellulite massage therapist will focus on other blockages in the body such as built up cellulite just under the skin, which can also contribute to excess fluid retention.
Throughout pregnancy a woman’s body undergoes a whole host of hormonal fluctuations, some of which can affect the efficiency of the lymphatic drainage system. This, together with various natural changes in lifestyle such as being less able to exercise, can cause the infamous swollen feet that many pregnant women suffer.
After your first trimester, a pregnancy massage is safe to receive. Specifically trained therapists use gentle and appropriate procedures, aligned with your reduced mobility, to ease aches and swellings that are often experienced during pregnancy.
Treating edema in the legs or feet usually requires a course of several one-hour treatments before the full benefits are felt and seen. However many people do report improvements in mobility and an immediate easing of pain after just one or two sessions.
There are several types of edema, but the most common are peripheral and pedal oedema which usually affect the lower limbs. These are the forms that cause swollen calves, ankles or feet.
There are two main types of swelling causes by edema. In some people, if the swollen area is pressed with the tip of a finger, an indentation remains visible in the skin even after a few seconds. This is known as pitting edema. Others have non-pitting edema in which the skin quickly returns to its previous position after being pressed. Your doctor will check the nature of swelling you have before prescribing the best course of treatments.