Good Footing

Plagued with swollen ankles or feet? A look at swelling, aka ” edema,” of the lower extremities with local physical therapist Kindra Scott. 

Swelling, medically referred to as edema, can have many causes and can occur throughout the body. Some causes are no reason for alarm while others may require urgent medical intervention.

Common Causes

  • Post-operative. Common causes of lower extremity edema include post-operative swelling and injury. In these cases, the edema will only affect the limb that has experienced trauma. Following injury to a joint, be it from surgery or sprain or fracture, white blood cells rush to the injury site to begin their work in the healing process.
  • Pregnancy. In pregnancy, one could experience edema in both legs. One cause is the excess fluid generated to support the growing needs of the developing fetus. Another cause is the mother’s growing uterus, which puts pressure on large and small veins of the body responsible for returning blood back to the heart. This added pressure impedes the veins’ capacity to quickly return fluid from the lower extremity back to the heart. As a result, pooling of fluid occurs.

Serious Causes
If we haven’t yet pinpointed your cause of swollen legs or feet, hang tight, there are a couple more reasons, both of which require a visit to your doctor.

  • Lymphedema. Lymphedema occurs when your body is unable to rid itself of large proteins — this could happen for several reasons, which we won’t get into here. One of the telltale signs of lymphedema comes from a Stemmer Test. To perform it, try to pinch and lift a skinfold at the base of your second toe. If you can pinch and lift the skin (bringing the folds together), the test is negative . If you can’t, you’ve tested positive and I’d urge you to consult your doctor or a vascular specialist for a consultation.

  • Pulmonary or Cardiac. Another cause of edema that requires medical attention is edema associated with pulmonary (lung) or cardiac (heart) pathology. In both of these cases, one might experience swelling of both legs. If your condition is accompanied by shortness of breath or other breathing difficulties, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

About Life Health Strength Physical Rehabilitation
“We believe no patient is too young or too old to receive physical therapy treatment. Our experienced practitioners are equipped to treat newborn infants to geriatric populations. We understand that each patient is unique in his or her own way. Therefore, an individualized plan of care is developed for each patient.”

4027 Ridge Ave (MAP LINK)
(267) 297-6499

About Kindra Scott 1 Article
Kindra Scott, DPT, CLT is the co-owner of Life Health Strength Physical Rehabilitation. She is a native of the DC metropolitan area who currently resides in Philadelphia with her husband and family. Dr. Scott is also a certified lymphedema therapist with a strong interest in treating the pediatric population.

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