When I first saw a compression pump I got kind of shocked. It was like this huge Michelin Man-suit with all these tubes hanging from it.
I first tried lying in a compression pump when I got one of my first bandaging treatment at the physiotherapists working at the hospital. The physiotherapist told me that the suit worked in a way that was similar to the self drainage-technique (you can read more about that here). The suit gives your limb with lymphedema a kind of a massage; air is filled into it in a way that pressures up the lymph fluid from for example your lower legs and up to your upper body. In that way the suit compensates for the lymphatic system that is not working.
You can read a bit more about the compression pump below.
- What exactly is a compression pump (and how to get it)?
- How to use it at home
What exactly is a compression pump (and how to get it)?
A compression pump is an electric inflatable suit that you put on either your legs or arms. The pump consists of a compressor which is connected to a suit via air hoses.
The pump fills up with air from the bottom and up in a way that presses the fluids in your legs or arms up to upper body. The pump fills up air into the chambers in the suit and then after filling up all the chambers with air, the pump releases all the air from the chambers again. This procedure is then repeated several times within the specific time set chosen.
The pressure in the pump can vary to fit your exact needs.
The pump has the purpose of giving a pulsating pressure massage, which can contribute to lessen the swelling in your limbs, soften the tissue and in general make the amount of discomfort from lymphedema smaller.
The compression pump is often used as part of a bandaging treatment instead of a manual lymph massage.
It should be said that you should always discuss with your doctor or physiotherapist if a compression pump is a good thing for you to be using. I do not know if it is possible that the pump in some specific cases can worsen the lymphedema. I would therefore always encourage you to discuss this with the relevant health personnel.
Private companies are selling compression pumps, for example under the name “Lympha press”. I would advise you to simply google “compression pump” or “Lympha press” and find out where you can purchase one in your neighbourhood.
A compression pump is pretty expensive, though. I believe they at this moment (2017) cost around 50.000 kr. in Denmark.
Danes, be aware that it is possible to get the compression pump publicly financed in Denmark, if you apply for it. Read more about that here.
How to use it at home
The compression pump is very simple to use at home. Down below you will find a quick introduction to the (usual) settings on a compression pump.
Program setting: The one I have has 4 different kinds of programs on it; all with the purpose of massaging my legs in a way that will get some of the “bottled up”-fluids away from my lower body. I normally choose a program that does this kind of “warming up-massage” on my legs and then afterwards the traditional pumping.
Time setting: Besides choosing a program you always have to set a timer on the machine; as in, how long do you want to lie in the pump. I have been recommended by my doctors not to lie in it less than 30 minutes, because they are not sure it will have an effect when lying in it shorter time than that. My machine has a minimum time of 20 minutes, which makes sense because you will not get much massage out of lying in it for 5 minutes for example. At the same time I have been told by my doctors that they are not sure if it will benefit me to lie in the machine more than 60 minutes; as in, they believe that the effect of lying in the machine will not be bigger by staying in it for more that 60 minutes. I usually lie in my compression pump 45-60 minutes – sometimes a bit more if my legs are very troubled and I just want to try everything I can to make them better.
Start/pause: When you have chosen the program and time setting, you just press “Start”. It is possible to press “Pause” during the massaging if you should need it, in case of feeling a bit claustrophobic for example.
When I first got my compression pump, I lied in it 45-60 minutes every single day when I came home from work. And that is also what the doctors recommend. But I have discovered that my legs seems to benefit more from me shifting between exercise and the pump during the week, so I now try to lie in the pump 3-4 times a week and then supplements with exercise like swimming or yoga – this might not be the case with every lymphedema patient, though. So discuss with your doctors what is believed to be best in your specific case. In my case my legs reacts much better on being regularly exercised instead of just focusing on spending an hour each day on lying in the pump.