Once the standard for lymphatic treatment, the benefits of compression pumps are becoming largely questioned within the lymphedema community. Why is that? And what, exactly, do pumps do?
Let’s start with the basics: A compression pump is an inflatable garment for the arm or leg. An electrical pneumatic pump fills the garment with compressed air, inflating and deflating at different intervals and providing cycles of compression on the limb. They are not meant to open up lymphatic passages, but rather offer an alternative to bandaging.
Aria Degillio, a reader here at The Lymphie Life, had begun using a pump a few months ago. Every day before bed, Aria would pump her leg for an hour, and enjoyed the decrease in swelling that resulted. Emails between us flew back and forth, and she enthusiastically recommended that I get one, too.
If you asked Aria if she recommended the pump today, however, her response would be very different. A couple days ago, Aria went to a lymphatic specialist in Michigan. He told her that the pump was a bad idea because it removes the fluid but not the solid particles, therefore speeding up the hardening of the tissue. Talk about bad news!
It’s true that pumps can cause complications and further damage to the lymphatic system, although there have been improvements made upon the old models. For example, there are newer devices referred to as intermittent pneumatic compression devices that are designed for the leg or plantar region of the foot.
If you are interested in getting a pump of your own, it’s important that you talk to a lymphedema specialist or doctor first. As with anything, success really depends on the correct usage of the right pumps, as well as a commitment to maintaining the treatment.
What do you think, lymphies? Have you used a pump before? What is your experience with them? Share your stories in the comments below!