My First Lymphedema Arm Bandaging
So, last Tuesday I go in and have my OT Angie (who I’ve seen on and off since the beginning, almost 8 years ago) take a look and discuss some possible plans.
We decide to try bandaging, to get my arm size down some, take some new measurements, and start fresh with some new exercises and therapies.
Here I am learning the new rules >>>
I can generally keep my lymphedema under control with a 30 minute self-MLD every morning, some mini-drains as needed during the week, and a biweekly appointment with the magical Dave Henderson – notorious lymph-taming & fascia-busting hero.
But with all the pain and other issues I’ve been having recently, a visit to the Outer Banks Hospital Outpatient Rehab center was in order.
Bandaging itself went well. I wore the bandaging home and was fine throughout the day.
By fine I mean I felt as though my entire arm from fingertips to armpit was stuck, lodged in an empty log.
One that weighs 50 pounds, and itches. =/
Sleeping at night was rough, having an itchy 50 pound log stuck around my arm and unable to bend my elbow, but I managed through the night.
I felt pretty good walking back into the OT office the next day, and thrilled to find out I’ve lost multiple centimeters of diameter across my arm. We took new measurements and I’m buying some fresh new sleeves!
I’m loving how light and compact and generally “good” my arm felt. So, my husband Scott & I ventured for a walk! I don’t know if it was the weight of the arm, plus the additional weight of all the bandaging, or the movement, or the heat… but 10 minutes into the walk my arm feels like it’s about to explode through the bandaging, like The Hulk shedding his regular man-sized clothes.
I grab hold of my swollen left arm with my right arm, and carried it home. I lay down in bed with some cool ice on my shoulder and try some manual lymph drainage around the bandage and some deep breathing just trying to stay cool, and carry on. This, too, shall pass.
A few hours later and I’m doing my recommended therapy “exercises” and stretch my arm over my head to stretch out my damaged left side. I feel a pinch or pull in my skin of my upper arm that feels like it’s been ripped open … it’s the only way I can describe it, just a little snag and then like an unzipping feeling. I expected to see blood.
Immediately I’m feeling my elbow and upper arm area begin to rush with heat and flush turn red and swell. The swelling soon became intense, like it was earlier when I was walking. I roll down the top of the bandaging to take a peek and saw that my skin was turning red below the bandaging. Red and bumpy and blistery, hot, and sore.
I started pulling the bandaging off and examine my arm. It didn’t stop swelling for quite some time – I had bumps and hives and scratch marks without having touched my arm. Parts of the skin was hardening, and parts blistering, and all of my arm was burning hot. So, yeah. 🙁
The burning sensation in my skin would not go away. As much as I hate medicine I caved and covered my arm in a Benadryl gel, which I use in emergencies on the hives that I experience since chemo. Sometimes the hives get pretty intense and so I coat them with the Benadryl gel which immediately stops the burn and itch.
Not this time. I resort to taking two Benadryl antihistamine tablets and calling it a night.
On Friday we decide to try again so after another treatment for the fascia pain in my ribs, we commence to another wrapping of my arm. For a while it is doing well: uncomfortable, inconvenient, but not too painful.
Until around 2 am, when I wake up to fire and brimstone in the bandaging. I just took off the bandage and set my arm free.
Immediately I noticed in the side of my elbow a series of creases – I must have had my elbow bent maybe while I was sleeping, causing some creases in the fold of my arm, and maybe cutting off circulation some.
Immediately after the bandages are off my skin just starts swelling and burning itching and you can see my veins struggling, you can see them through my skin and now a series of what look like pin pricks have run down my arm along a vein. They are sensitive to the touch, and sensitive if I twist my arm or pull my skin.
For now, I’m keeping the bandages rolled up neat and tidy. I’ll be back at OT this week, and see how we go from here.