Treatment for Lymphoedema

English: By Ruth Lawson. Otago Polytechnic.

English: By Ruth Lawson. Otago Polytechnic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)This is a diagram that shows the progress of Lymph from the capillaries to to lymph vessels and nodes… If these are damaged and missing the lymph becomes trapped in the tissue… This causes the swelling of lymphoedema… Treatment is to help move this fluid to other vessels and nodes and leave the body.

Light exercises that require you to move your affected arm or leg may encourage movement of the lymph fluid out of your limb. These exercises shouldn’t be strenuous or make you tired. Instead, they should focus on gentle contraction of the muscles in your arm or leg. Your doctor or a physical therapist can teach you exercises that may help. Exercise in a pool is good as the water acts as a natural compression….


Bandages wrapped around your entire limb encourage lymph fluid to flow back out of your affected limb and toward the trunk of your body. When bandaging your arm or leg, start by making the bandage tightest around your fingers and toes. Wrap the bandage more loosely as you move up your arm or leg. A lymphoedema therapist can show you how to bandaging is a course treatment usually over a few weeks to bring the affected limb down in size. Compression garments can then be fitted.

Bandaging for the leg

Bandaging for arm and hand

A special massage technique called manual lymph drainage may encourage the flow of lymph fluid out of your arm or leg. Manual lymph drainage involves special hand strokes on your affected limb to gently move lymph fluid to healthy lymph nodes, where it can drain. Massage isn’t for everyone. Avoid massage if you have a skin infection, active cancer, blood clots or congestive heart failure. Also avoid massage on areas of your body that have received radiation therapy.

If you receive pneumatic compression, you’ll wear a sleeve over your affected arm or leg. The sleeve is connected to a pump that intermittently inflates the sleeve, putting pressure on your limb. The inflated sleeve gently moves lymph fluid away from your fingers or toes, reducing the swelling in your arm or leg

Compression garments include long sleeves or stockings made to compress your arm or leg to encourage the flow of the lymph fluid out of your affected limb. Once you’ve reduced swelling in your arm or leg through other measures, your therapist will suggest you wear compression garments to prevent your limb from swelling in the future. Obtain a correct fit for your compression garment by getting professional help — ask your therapist where you can buy compression garments in your community. Some people will require custom-made compression garments, others can use of the shelf sizes… However in both cases measurements must be taken for a correct fit.

When several of these treatments are combined, this therapy may be referred to as complete decongestive therapy (CDT). Generally, CDT isn’t recommended for people who have high blood pressure, diabetes, paralysis, heart failure, blood clots or acute infections.

In cases of severe lymphoedema your doctor may consider surgery to remove excess tissue in your arm or leg. While this reduces severe swelling, surgery can’t cure lymphoedema. There are new procedures being looked at in the way of surgery to see if they help…

Information from Mayo Clinic Staff with Thanks

I am just adding this link for self lymphatic drainage massage given to me by a lady who has breast cancer.. It is easy to follow..however please note If you have lost lymph nodes in the groin area and have Lymphoedema of the legs you need to clear the upper body and then go from groin upwards to under the arm and then up from the feet to groin.. So it is reversed for the second part of massage… I hope this helps..

Click to access %284C%29%20Managing%20Lymphedema%20Notes4%20-%20Anna%20Kennedy.pdf

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6 thoughts on “Treatment for Lymphoedema

  1. thank you for the information, do you happen to have a link for post cancer deep self lymphatic drainage? i already to the light therapy, but my stomach is swelling, along with my arm and leg. i do wear a compression garment on my arm. but with the swelling, it hurts too much. Any information you can pass along, i would be most grateful.

  2. I had the lymph node transfer in December, 2014. I am very happy with my results. I no longer need to wear a garment everyday. Highly recommend you get your leg as small as possible prior to surgery. Dr Granzow, now the lymph node transfer and bypass (LVA) at the same time. I know one person who has had the SAPL, VLNT and LVA, she just game back from South Africa. If I’m not mistaken she flew with an off the shelf garment. Personally, I think the bypass (LVA) is the icing on the cake!!
    I also had 2 drains after the lymph node transfer. Please feel free to contact me at
    Have a local friend who had the SAPL last year with Granzow and is scheduled to have the LVNT and LVA this Tuesday. Once she is full recuperatied, I’m sure she would be happy to share with you!

    • Thanks so much Cindy for joining the conversation …all these experiences help people so much … I wear off the shelf juzo stockings since having my LNT in 2013 ….hope all is going well with you xx

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