A physical therapist serves as an important member of your health care team and will work closely with you to design a lymphedema therapy program to help control the swelling and meet your goals for returning to your activities. In the early stages of lymphedema, when the swelling is mild, it can often be managed by compression garments, exercise, and elevation of the affected limb to encourage lymph flow. For more severe swelling, treatment called “complete decongestive therapy” may be used.
The initial step often includes manual lymphatic drainage, which feels like a light form of massage and helps improve the flow of lymph from your arm or leg. This is followed by compression bandaging that helps to reduce the swelling. Your therapist will carefully monitor the size of the limb throughout your treatment sessions.