While it’s true that there are standard “tools” for treating lymphedema, most patients and their lymphedema cases are different. We respond differently to the many types of garments, compression, and accessories (ie foam, inserts, devices). There are many different companies that make products for lymphedema and there is a good reason for this. Even within the same companies there are different fabric choices, methods of construction, compression classes, and tons of different shapes and sizes ranging from off the shelf to custom.
I have had lymphedema for about 9 years now and have tried the majority of the garments that are on the market. Some of them work well for me and some of them don’t seem to fit me or contain my swelling as well. This can change at any time too. There have been times in my life when I was wearing the same type of garment for years (making sure to have it checked before I reorder of course) and then all of the sudden the product didn’t seem to work for me anymore. That is unfortunately the nature of lymphedema, the longer the fluid sits in your tissues, the more it changes and you need to adapt with it.
I get that this can be frustrating and difficult for people, especially when they are new to lymphedema and are trying to figure out what works for them. Be patient and know that a little creativity can sometimes help.
I have small wrists as well as swelling in the dorsum (back) and palm of my hand. Both of these things can make bandaging difficult for me. I have played around with many different types of pads and finally figured out a way to make a pad that helps with both sides of my hand.
My personal hand foam recipe:
- A roll of Velfoam / RFoam (I get this from http://www.lymphedemaproducts.com, but there are many places that sell it.)
- A few sheets of blank paper
- A Sharpie or some other pointed tipped marker
- A pen
- Start by folding a piece of paper in half, placing the paper with the fold toward your knuckles, and tracing the back of your hand. Make sure to leave a little bit of space between the fold and the top of your knuckles so that there is space for your fingers to go in between.
- Next, flip the paper and trace your palm on the other side. Make sure you draw holes for where your fingers will go. Cut the whole thing out including the finger holes and try it on. It might take you a few tries to get the right shape the first time you make it. (Be careful when trying the paper on so that you don’t get a paper cut!)
- Once you have a shape that seems to work, lay it on top of the foam and trace the shape with the Sharpie.
- Cut the shape out of the foam and try it on. You might have to adjust it a little, but it should fit your hand pretty well.
I typically hold the foam on with my second roll of finger bandages (the one that reinforces my knuckles) to make sure it stays in place. I like the Velfoam because it keeps its shape pretty well and doesn’t rip or fall apart as easily as gray foam. You can try it out of any foam that you prefer though!
There are many other ways that you can use foam to help with bandaging or garments, this is just an example that works for me. Talk with your CLT about your problem areas and see if you can come up with something together that will work for you.