Why is a CLT (certified lymphedema therapist) different than a LMT (licensed massage therapist)?
Why is a CLT different than a LMT when deciding on who to pursue lymphatic massage sessions with?
Having gone through both trainings I can tell you from first hand experience in the State of Wisconsin (because each state may have different requirements) why there is a difference.
To become a certified lymphedema therapist there are a handful of schools that are known specifically for this training. I attended UW Milwaukee College of Health Sciences. During this extensive course (135 hours combined) you receive in depth education in all aspects of the lymphatic system anatomy and physiology and hands on training in all stages of complete decongestive therapy which prepares you to safely and effectively treat and manage lymphatic disorders. Complete decongestive therapy includes aspects of manual lymphatic drainage techniques and soft tissue mobilization skills, exercise, bandaging, skin care, patient evaluation/assessment, vasopnuematic pumps, compression garments and patient self management. The course combines home study credits, in class training of theory/application and hands on practice and refinement of skills. This involves passing a written and practical exam at the cessation of the course. This rigorous program prepares you to assess and treat all variables of edema. In my practice I see a variety of clientele and not all require all aspects of complete decongestive therapy. 75% come for the manual lymphatic drainage portion (lymphatic massage) to take advantage of the wide health benefits of stimulating your lymphatic system, which include:
Reduction in swelling and stagnant fluid
Reduction in pain
Boosted immune system
Rejuvenation of energy
The other 25% of my clientele is working on intensive edema management which includes all aspects of complete decongestive therapy.
To become a licensed massage therapist in the state of Wisconsin you must complete a recognized 500 hour minimum, entry level massage therapy program. In which you learn all aspects of bodywork focusing on therapeutic work to the tissues. Hands on training is provided on largely a muscular level. Of the 500 hours of training provided, you should expect anywhere from 8-25 hours spent on the lymphatic system depending on which program you enroll. Any of which does not prepare you for treating extensive swelling, especially lymphedema. The massage coursework specifically states that the skills developed are not sufficient to treat lymphedema and should be referred out. The massage technique taught is vastly different than manual lymphatic drainage and is composed mostly of effleurage techniques designed for improving circulation towards to heart.
So I encourage you to do your research prior to deciding on receiving a lymphatic massage.