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Northern Montana Health Care Now Offering Lymphedema Therapy

Havre, Montana – Northern Montana Health Care (NMHC) is pleased to announce that Joanne Nelson, PT, part of the Rehab Services Team at Northern Montana Hospital (NMH), is now nationally accredited to provide Certified Lymphedema Therapy (CLT). She attended the Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy, the premier training school in the United States for lymphedema treatment training. Following more than 135 hours of training with the Norton School, she took the Lymphedema Association of North America’s board examination to obtain her Certified Lymphedema Therapist credentials. Joanne will be seeing patients at NMH as referred by their Primary Care Providers.

Lymphedema is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the skin. Lymph is a protein and white blood cell rich fluid found throughout the body that helps to fight infection and to recycle proteins. When the lymphatic system is damaged, fluid accumulates in the skin and is called lymphedema. The risk for developing lymphedema increases after: a surgery that removes or damages lymph nodes, radiation therapy, having active cancer, or having an infection from surgery. Lymphedema can start within a few months of injury to the lymphatic system or even decades later, but most often it develops within about 1–2 years after the injury. 

You may have Lymphedema if you have a feeling of fullness or heaviness; your skin feels tight; your hand, wrist, foot or ankle is less flexible; your clothes feel tighter in one specific area; your ring, watch, bracelet or shoe feels tighter. If you are experiencing these symptoms, contact your Primary Care Provider.

When a patient is referred for lymphedema therapy, the CLT will use manual techniques as well as compression therapy to decongest the affected area and will then make recommendations to prevent re-accumulation of fluid. These methods are called Complete Decongestive Therapy, or CDT.

“Being able to offer these services locally is a tremendous benefit to the patients here on the Hi-line,” stated Jerad Gillen, Director of Rehab Services at NMH. “Any time we can eliminate the need for travel with our patients it is beneficial. With the very nature of Lymphedema, not sitting in a vehicle for lengths of time is important. So receiving this therapy locally is very important. Having a CLT on staff allows us to increase the level of care we’re able to offer here at NMHC.”

Questions about the CLT can be directed to the Rehab Services Department at (406) 262-1181.

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