Lymphedema therapy

What to expect during lymphedema therapy

lymphedemaYou and the lymphedema therapist will talk about the goals of therapy. You can expect one or all of the following from your treatment:

  • manual lymphatic drainage (massage): The lymphedema therapist will do a special light massage that moves the lymph fluid to unaffected areas of your body. This will also soften areas of hardness in your tissues.
  • compression bandaging: The lymphedema therapist will put multi-layered bandages including low-stretch bandages on your arm or leg after the massage. The pressure varies along the bandaged area to keep the fluid from returning to your arm or leg. Bandages keep the fluid out of your arm or leg by increasing the pressure of your skin. This helps the contraction of your muscles stimulate your lymph vessels and help the fluid move out of your arm or leg.
  • exercises: The lymphedema therapist will show you how to do exercises to keep your lymph fluid moving. He or she can also show you special range of motion exercises if your arm or leg does not have normal movement or use.
  • skin and nail care: The lymphedema therapist will give you skin and nail care information that will help reduce the risk of infection.
  • fitting for a compression garment: The lymphedema therapist will help fit you or send you to be fitted fora compression garment if you have been treated and your swelling has decreased as much as possible. This special garment helps maintain the decrease achieved during treatment.

The amount of time spent in treatment depends on the amount of swelling you have. You will talk with your lymphedema therapist about a follow-up plan.

Check with your insurance provider to see if your treatment and supplies will be covered.

Source: Allina Health Patient Education, The Lymphedema Treatment Program at Courage Kenny® Rehabilitation Institute, pt-ahc-21175 (6/09)
Reviewed By: Allina Health Patient Education experts, including Nancy Hutchison, MD, CLT-LANA, medical director, Cancer Rehabilitation and Lymphedema, Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 06/01/2009
Last Reviewed: 06/01/2009