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Lymphedema Treatment

Lymphedema can be controlled with careful and consistent treatment.

Lymphedema is swelling in one or both of your arms or legs caused by a blockage in your lymphatic system, preventing lymph fluid from draining. Swelling occurs as fluid builds up. Lymphedema can be controlled with careful and consistent treatment, but it cannot be cured. Exercise, massage and compression can all help relieve swelling in the affected limbs.

With your physical therapist, movement of the lymph fluid can be promoted through:

  • Elevation and specific exercise, with gentle muscle contraction
  • Compression garments, pneumatic compression or proper wrapping with a bandage on the affected limb(s)
  • Manual lymph drainage, a massage technique using special hand strokes on the affected limb(s), can gently relieve more severe swelling by moving fluid to healthy lymph nodes, followed by compression bandaging.

At home, a self-care program developed by your therapist may include:

  • A safe exercise program, avoiding strain to the affected limbs
  • Proper fitting of compression garments, assessed regularly and according to your needs
  • Nutritional counseling, encouraging a diet to decrease fluid buildup