Negative Pressure Treatment with the LymphaTouch Device
Negative Pressure Treatment – An Innovative Therapy Method for Faster Recovery
Author: Mira Väyrynen, PT, M.H.Sc
Recovery is an essential part of the training program for high-level performance and continued improvement (Dalleck 2019). Lack of recovery, trauma, overuse or prolonged stress of the tissue structures are common examples of the causes for sport injuries (Bahr et al 2015). There are several treatments that are usually performed after sports injury aiming to speed up the recovery process.
These treatments traditionally include e.g. hot or cold packs, therapeutic exercises, strapping, electrical stimulation and manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilization or massage (Lam et al 2015). Regarding manual techniques, we usually create positive pressure or stretching to affect soft tissue (Threlkeld 1992) and nowadays it is rather common to apply Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) to enhance mobilizing effect of tissue e.g. for scars and myofascial adhesions (Cheatham et al 2015).
One innovative approach in sport rehabilitation and muscle maintenance is to create controlled negative pressure and decompression as part of the manual treatment instead to mobilize the tissue and enhance the recovery process.
LymphaTouch® negative pressure treatment was originally developed for healthcare and rehabilitation professionals to enhance lymphatic circulation and to reduce swelling and pain especially in cancer survivors who suffer from secondary lymphedema (Vuorinen & Airaksinen 2009). Lymphedema is defined as a condition in which extra fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. It may occur anywhere in human body, most commonly in an arm or leg if lymph vessels are blocked, damaged or removed by surgery (National Cancer Institute 2019). Lymphedema can also develop at birth known as primary lymphedema (Rockson 2001).
However, as a typical symptom of inflammation, swelling is also very common condition after acute trauma or injury such as contusions, muscle-tendon or ligament sprains and related ruptures (Kannus et al 2003; Szczesny et al 2003). Therefore, LymphaTouch® is widely used outside of lymphedema care, since lymphatic swelling occurs in other conditions too, such as pre- and postoperatively, after acute injuries or in some chronic conditions.
Negative pressure treatment is not a completely new way of treatment since traditional cupping is also a very common example of this method. Donahue (2019) makes a good comparison between cupping and graded negative pressure treatment – In cupping, it is not possible to evaluate the amount of negative pressure inside of the cup and it may cause bruising and swelling rather easily for especially hypersensitive tissue.
LymphaTouch® treatment, on the other hand, provides an opportunity to control the decompression of the tissue (Donahue 2019). The operating principle of LymphaTouch® is rather simple (see the video above). Negative pressure expands and stretches the tissue pulling anchor filaments to dilate the endothelial openings of the lymphatic capillaries. Simultaneously, the expansion of fascial and connective tissue structures create space for blood circulation and lymph flow. The device is designed to support lymphatic drainage and to mobilize tissue by creating controlled negative pressure and mechanical high frequency vibration (Vuorinen & Airaksinen 2009).
LymphaTouch® negative pressure treatment has been used in several treatment areas and patient populations, such as:
- Sports athletes to reduce perception of DOMS e.g. after heavy resistance training, for muscle maintenance, recovery treatments, in acute conditions to enhance healing process and to reduce pain (Hietanen et al 2014, Nummela et al 2013, Tucker 2014)
- Orthopedic patients in pre- and postoperative rehabilitation to reduce swelling and pain (Guangmin et al 2018, Ping et al 2014, Saul et al 2020),
- Oncologic patients in lymphedema care to reduce swelling, to treat scar- and fibrotic tissue and to improve symptoms of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (Gott et al 2018, Harris 2020, Murphy et al 2018, Vuorinen et al 2013),
- Musculoskeletal and neurologic patients in general rehabilitation to improve range of motion and overall functionality (Airaksinen et al 2011, Hietanen et al 2014, Kim et al 2018).
Also, fascial treatments are common to perform with LymphaToch®. Dr. Tucker (2014) writes about his experience of using the negative pressure device mainly from fascial perspective. He has utilized technology e.g. in acute and chronic local swelling and edema, trigger points, fascial tightness, muscle shortness and deficits in motor activity or control. Dr. Tucker (2014) describes the treatment as an extension of his hands for twisting and pulling the tissue while treating.
LymphaTouch® includes the main unit itself and five different sizes of treatment cups. The size of the treatment cup is chosen to fit the treated body part. Negative pressure can be adjusted between 20 and 250 mmHg depending on the treatment indication. In case of sensitive skin, the negative pressure can be adjusted lower and when treating tighter tissue or scars, the negative pressure can be increased. It is always good to start with lower negative pressure values and increase negative pressure gradually by following patient perceptions and tissue reactions.
LymphaTouch® Sport-upgrade allows even more intense treatments for versatile tissue mobilization with the possibility to increase the negative pressure up to 350 mmHg. With LymphaTouch® device it is possible to choose either pulsating or continuous negative pressure treatments.
Pulsating negative pressure activates the tissue and is used for local treatments when continuous mode is mostly used e.g. in fascial techniques to decompress the tissue efficiently or when redirecting extra fluid in edematous treatments. In case of e.g. treating tight tissue or scar tissue it is possible to combine negative pressure treatment with mechanical high frequency vibration with range of 20-90 Hz. Higher frequencies influence the superficial layers of the tissue and lower frequencies take the effect deeper into the tissue. It is possible to combine all different kind of settings with different treatment techniques which makes the device very versatile to use in various indications. The battery lasts up to 8 hours of continuous use and can be used while plugged in too. LymphaTouch® device is easy-to-use and it travels easily with the sports teams – thanks to its light weight and a convenient carrying bag.
LymphaTouch® treatment promotes overall recovery and can help to speed up the recovery by accelerating the lymphatic flow and creating decompression to the tissue (Vuorinen & Airaksinen 2009). LymphaTouch® negative pressure treatment gives professionals the opportunity to mobilize the tissue in an opposite direction what is possible to create with our hands and hence, provides a three-dimensional treatment (Donahue 2019). It also allows practitioner to assess for interrupted fascial gliding, improve fascial flexibility and to enhance lymphatic flow (Tucker 2015).
By combining the expertise and knowledge of the practitioners with other manual techniques and active exercise therapy, graded negative pressure treatment can provide a great potential for sports athletes’ injury prevention, muscle maintenance, faster recovery and overall performance.
About the author:
Mira Väyrynen works as a clinical specialist at LymphaTouch Inc. She graduated as a physical therapist from Lapland University of Applied Sciences and also holds master’s degree in Health Science from University of Jyväskylä. She has a versatile experience from working with various patient populations from children to elderly, including patients with stroke, cancer, musculoskeletal-, neurological-, cardiovascular- and lung disorders. She has worked in both private clinics and public hospitals, such as Helsinki University Hospital. On her daily basis, Mira coordinates research projects, collects and shares information and experience with clinicians worldwide and provides trainings and workshops related to LymphaTouch negative pressure device.
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