Lipedema or Lipoedema (painful fat syndrome) is a chronic condition that can be very painful, even debilitating. Excess fluid that is not contained normally within our fat cells accumulates, either entering the system too fast or not leaving at a fast enough rate causing buildup. It is believed that individuals with this condition have problems with both lymphatic and blood vessels.
Physical signs are fatty enlargements of the legs, trunk and even arms that are bilateral and symmetrical in appearance, rarely affecting the feet and hands. It almost exclusively affects women and it is estimated that 10% worldwide and as high as 15-17% in the USA are affected by this relatively unknown condition. The fat itself can be very painful, with common symptoms such as fatigue, being often more prone to bruising and hypermobile joints. Many with lipedema have also been diagnosed with Classic Ehlers Danlos or Ehlers Danlos Hypermobile Spectrum Disorder leading top researchers to believe it is a connective tissue disorder. Not all women experience unusual pain and it can often be reduced or eliminated by self-care and treatment.
Lipedema is not commonly known and is often misdiagnosed. It is often confused with lymphedema, where fat is asymmetrical, typically occurs after surgery, trauma or where there has been an infection that has caused damage or blockages within the lymphatic system. It is possible to have both, and many suffer with a variety of other co-conditions.
For those dealing with a fat disorder, it’s suggested to move and keep moving as much as possible. Regular activity helps to improve overall muscle strength, stamina and bone density, but it also contributes to better blood and lymphatic flow, helps manage stress and can help boost your mood and even confidence. Often regular activities are challenging due to pain or poor mobility. Low impact activities that do not increase lactic acid are the best approach. The Fat Disorders Research Society recommends activities like swimming, water aerobics, walking, whole body vibration, stationary bike, tai chi, elliptical trainer, yoga, and stretching. Activity will not get rid of this condition but it may help reduce symptoms and slow down the progression of this disease.
Many of our members affected by this condition use vibration plates not only as an activity, but as a short 2-3 minute treatment throughout the day as needed to help manage pain, boost energy levels and to keep lymph and blood flow moving. They are super low impact and can not only reduce the amount of time you spend exercising but it also cuts down the impact on one’s joints while keeping energy levels up. Many seek massage as a tool for lymphatic drainage and pain management, so these machines offer similar effects for you at home whenever you need or in complement with other self-care tools.
Another great tool many of our users are finding can offer relief are massage guns. These have been found to be effective in targeting not only tension, but can help move that lymph buildup. Some dealing with Lipedema can develop hard, painful fatty lumps with tissue and many have had success in “breaking them up” and reducing size of these deposits.
Compression is another popular go to for pain and swelling. For those dealing with limited mobility or range of motion, our Radiate compression sleeves can be used seated, lying down or in the car. These chargeable compression devices are affordable and can be used as a non-invasive tool to help manage symptoms.
For more information about this and other Fat disorders, visit the Fat Disorders Research Society https://www.fatdisorders.org/.