Lipedema is a chronic, progressive disorder of fat tissue and lymphatic dysfunction affecting 1 in 10 women. It’s believed hormonal events activate lipedema, including the onset of puberty, after pregnancy and during menopause. There’s also evidence it is hereditary in some cases.
Lipedema is characterized by fat tissue build-up with swelling in both legs. Unlike normal fat, lipedemous fat deposits can be tender and easy to bruise. Fat will accumulate in an uneven way on your body; most have a normal-sized upper body, with disproportionately thick, column-like legs. In later stages, a cuff of fat forms at the ankle, above a normal-sized foot.
An under-performing lymphatic system results in swelling. Growing fat deposits put more pressure on your lymphatic system, increasing that swelling. Left untreated this cycle will continue.
Because this condition is gradual, it’s often mistaken for normal, stubborn weight gain in the early stages. However, diet and exercise won’t reduce lipedemous fat like they do with normal fat. And diuretics (water pills) won’t solve the swelling either. As lipedema progresses, the fat deposits and swelling will too.
Is your swelling lipedema or lymphedema? Read our blog on understanding the difference.
The best way to manage lipedema is to reduce and manage your swelling and be active. This may be daunting for some; especially those who’ve dealt with lipedema for a while and have lost motivation. In early stages, swelling can be stopped. In later stages, swelling is reduced significantly and stabilized. When swelling and pain are reduced, your mobility and flexibility return. You can also return to the activities you love, or even start something new.
The benefits of lymphatic massage therapy for lipedema are:
MLD therapy encourages lymph flow in under-performing lymphatic systems to reduce swelling. Lipedema almost always requires CDT (combined decongestive therapy) as well. It’s a blend of MLD with compression wrapping.
Once swelling is reduced and stabilized, compression garments support leg health and keep uncontrolled swelling from returning.