Lymphedema Certified Therapy

What is Lymphedema? Lymphedema is an accumulation of protein rich lymph fluid in the soft tissue under the skin, causing swelling in an arm, leg, neck or any area of the body.

What causes lymphedema? Lymphedema usually occurs as a result of surgical dissection of lymph nodes for breast, melanoma, prostate or head/neck cancers. Other causes can include radiation therapy, trauma, infections, morbid obesity and venous insufficiency.

You can click on a photo to see a larger version in a gallery

Keith in April 2011

Keith in July 2011

Custom compression stocking on L leg and circular knit stocking on R leg

How is lymphedema treated? Our Certified Lymphedema Therapists (CLTs) teach patients how to manage their condition using gentle Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) techniques, skin care, compression bandaging, therapeutic exercises and proper fitting of compression garments.

Breast cancer related lymphedema, which can cause significant swelling of the involved upper extremity, breast, and even the trunk, is mostly caused by damage and trauma to the body’s lymphatic system during treatment for cancer and can include limited movement, joint pain, and difficulty performing overhead activities. Therapists that have had the additional certification for Complete Decongestive Physiotherapy (CDP) are experts in restoring motion and mobility, and not only treat the effects of lymphedema, but also reduce the risk of reoccurrence.

Post-treatment maintenance

Classic neck lymphedema pre-treatment

Custom-made night-time
compression garment

Custom day-time compression sleeve that is a flat-knit red sleeve helping her to prevent recurrence of lymphedema and cellulitis

A study published in the journal Cancer (April 25, 2008) showed that pre-operative assessments of patients with breast cancer by physical therapists allows for earlier diagnosis and treatment of lymphedema. The study further demonstrated that when lymphedema was detected early, the patient’s condition was managed with a more conservative approach that included a light-grade compression sleeve and hand gauntlet that effectively decreased early swelling and possibly prevented the progression of lymphedema. Fitted by a CLT that is a certified garment fitter, these were prescribed for daily wear.

The Certified Lymphedema Therapists at Best in Town Physical Therapy recommend that patients undergoing treatments for any type of cancer be aware of their risk factors and indicators of the onset of lymphedema:

Risk Factors

  • Being overweight or gaining weight during or after cancer treatment
  • Having lymph nodes removed
  • Having radiation therapy
  • Having an infection or blood clot in the limb affected by cancer treatment

Maintenance after therapy
with appropriate compression
sleeve and glove

Lymphedema due to Chronic Venous Insufficiency


Co-treating with Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

Right arm pre-treatment

Right arm after 2 weeks treatment

Warning Signs

Some risk factors, such as the necessary treatment for cancer, cannot be avoided. However, there are many things you can do to help reduce the risk of lymphedema, such as:

Our Physical Therapists will create an exercise program tailored to your individual needs and monitor its effect on your lymphedema symptoms.