What is edema?
Edema is swelling and water retention caused by fluid in your body’s tissues. It usually occurs in the feet, ankles and legs, but it can involve your entire body.
If you are like me and pregnant in the summertime, it is likely that you’ve experienced some edema in this hot weather! Here are some helpful tips to keep edema under control.
Causes of edema include:
- Eating too much salt
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Liver problems from cirrhosis
- Problems with lymph nodes, especially after mastectomy
- Some medicines
- Standing or walking a lot when the weather is warm
To keep swelling down, your health care provider may recommend keeping your legs raised when sitting, wearing support stockings, limiting how much salt you eat or taking a medicine called a diuretic – also called a water pill.
Other tips include:
- Position changes – alternate sitting and standing with walking
- Wear socks and shoes that accommodate swelling
- Support hose worn throughout the day prevents pooling of fluid at the ankles
- Drink plenty of water, which actually helps with water retention
- Avoid crossing your legs or ankles
- Regular exercise
- Elevate your feet above your heart when possible
- Soaking your feet in cold water
Massage therapy can help reduce edema. Various techniques are used to relieve edema when massage is indicated:
- Lymphatic drainage – a light pressure which helps to flush out the swollen area
- Gentle Swedish massage techniques
- Elevation of the affected limb(s)
- Cold/ice or contrasting (alternating warm/cold) hydrotherapy
- Passive and active mobilization of the affected joint
Because edema can be caused by more serious underlying health problems, it is essential to discuss your symptoms with your health care practitioner.
Written By: Judy Gerber-van Vliet, RMT