Lymph nodes are small glands all around your body that are part of your immune system. You’ve probably heard of lymph nodes—if you’ve heard of them at all–in relation to cancer diagnoses, but everyone has them, and they play a crucial role in keeping us healthy.
But what exactly are the bean-shaped nodes? Technically a part of the lymphatic system, a network of organs, vessels, and nodes throughout the body, lymph nodes act like filters, trapping bacteria, viruses, and other invaders before they can cause an infection.
They also control the transport of infection-fighting liquid called lymphatic fluid around your body, delivering white blood cells via lymph vessels
(similarly to how veins transport blood).
Where are the Lymph Nodes located?
They are concentrated in the neck, under the chin, in the armpits, and around the groin, and you might notice they get swollen if you’re fighting an infection in the area.
What causes swollen lymph nodes?
Lymph nodes often swell in one location when a problem such as an injury, infection, or tumor develops in or near the lymph node. Which lymph nodes are swollen can help identify the problem.
Even a common cold can cause some swelling in lymph nodes, but it’ll usually go away when the infection clears up.
How are swollen lymph nodes treated? Treatment for swollen glands focuses on treating the cause. For example, a bacterial infection may be treated with antibiotics, while a viral infection often goes away on its own. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy may be done to confirm the diagnosis.
How Physical Therapy can help?
Physical therapists, specifically certified lymphedema therapists (CLT) play a vital role in the management of lymphedema. CLT’s use the gold standard to treat the swelling, which includes manual lymphatic drainage, compression therapy with short stretch bandages and/or compression garments, gentle exercise, and patient/family education.
Manual lymphatic drainage is a manual technique that serves to move lymph fluid in the appropriate direction to optimize reabsorption by the lymph nodes to reduce swelling in the limb. With the compression therapy, it is very dependent upon the severity of the swelling. As mentioned before, short stretch bandages could be used on a daily basis which requires the patient to see the therapist a few days per week for wrapping, or compression therapy can be as simple as wearing a compression garment that has been sized and ordered for that particular person.
Any swollen lymph nodes that don’t go away or return to normal size within about a month should be checked by your doctor.