How to Manage Lymphedema and Enjoy Relief from Symptoms

How to Manage Lymphedema and Enjoy Relief from Symptoms

Are you struggling with Lymphedema? If so, you are not alone. An estimated 10 million people worldwide live with this condition that causes limb swelling due to a build-up of lymphatic fluid in the tissues. With proper care and management, individuals can have control over their conditions and enjoy relief from symptoms associated with it.

In this blog post, we will discuss how lymphedema develops and what are the different types of lymphedema.

What is lymphedema and how does it develop?

Lymphedema is a condition where fluid builds up in the arms and legs, causing them to swell. Lymphedema can be caused by medical treatments like radiation or surgery that damage the lymphatic system, which is responsible for draining excess fluid. Lymphedema can also develop due to an abnormal formation of lymph vessels or a genetic deficiency of appropriate lymphatic tissue. As a result of these changes to the lymphatic system, infections, insect bites, injuries or immobility can then lead to uncontrolled swelling. Lymphedema has no cure, but its symptoms can be managed through physical therapy and exercise programs designed to reduce swelling and preserve joint mobility.

The different types of lymphedema

Lymphedema can be categorized into two main types: primary and secondary. Primary Lymphedema is a rare disorder that typically appears during infancy, childhood or adolescence. Secondary Lymphedema is more common, and develops as a result of tumors, inflammation, radiation therapy or surgical procedures in which lymphatic vessels have been damaged or removed. All forms of Lymphedema are linked to problems with fluid drainage from the body’s tissues, causing symptoms such as stiffness and discomfort in the joints. Although often difficult to manage, early diagnosis and treatment are essential for controlling Lymphedema symptoms.

What are the warning signs of lymphedema?

Common warning signs of Lymphedema include persistent mild swelling, changes in skin texture including thickening, and a feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected area. Lymphedema may begin after surgery, radiation therapy, trauma to the lymph nodes or other acquired situations later on. It is possible for Lymphedema to develop gradually from congestion of the lymphatic system by diseases such as cancer or filariasis. In addition, patients with Lymphedema should also be aware that their affected body part may have greater sensitivity to heat and pressure than usual. Lymphedema is a chronic condition that should be monitored closely by healthcare professionals.

How to manage and treat lymphedema?

Lymphedema cannot be cured, but with the help of a therapist trained in lymphedema management, patients will learn techniques to manage their symptoms and may even find symptom relief. Lymphedema specialists provide comprehensive treatment plans which can include manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), compression garments, exercises, skin care education, and other strategies for dealing with this condition. Lymphedema management also involves identifying and avoiding risk factors such as sun exposure, tight-fitting clothing, heat treatments and certain types of acupuncture.

Physiotherapy plays a pivotal role in the treatment of lymphedema. Physiotherapists work to reduce swelling, improve mobility and flexibility, prevent complications, and improve quality of life for those with lymphedema. A combination of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), compression bandaging, exercise, and education can be used to help manage lymphedema. MLD is a gentle massage technique that helps move fluid away from swollen areas by increasing lymph flow throughout the body. Our Physiotherapists are trained in the management of lymphedema and can provide you with individualized care. Book an appointment today to learn more about how we can help you manage your condition.


This appointment is your opportunity to tell us what hurts and discover whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care is a good fit for you! During this session, you will talk with a physiotherapist or chiropractor on a phone call (or online) and create the right care plan specifically for your pain. There is no obligation on this session is to find out whether physiotherapy or chiropractic care can help you getting back to doing the things you love in life.

Frequently Asked Questions

Low impact exercises like walking can be beneficial for people with lymphedema because it can help to improve circulation, reduce swelling, and increase muscle strength and flexibility.

If lymphedema is left untreated, it can lead to serious issues such as infection, impaired mobility and difficulty performing everyday activities. Untreated lymphedema can also cause physical disfigurement and pain, especially when the condition worsens over time. Without proper treatment, lymphedema can increase the risk of developing skin wounds which could be difficult to heal, leading to further complications like infection or cellulitis.

Lymphedema can be made worse by certain activities or behaviors, such as:

– Prolonged standing or sitting

– Carrying or lifting heavy objects

– Prolonged exposure to heat

– Injury or infection of the affected limb

– Wearing tight clothing or jewelry

– Not taking proper care of the skin in the affected area

– Eating a diet high in salt

– Smoking

– Not exercising regularly

– Not following a prescribed treatment plan.

About Erin Oma

Erin graduated from St. Francis Xavier University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1997 and from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy in 2000. Shortly after graduating from Western, she moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to work as a physiotherapist in an out-patient orthopedic clinic. She returned home to Ottawa in 2003 and has been working in out-patient physiotherapy in Ottawa ever since.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information presented in this blog post is for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, treatment or a diagnosis, consult with a medical professional such as one suggested on this website. The Clinic Accelerator Inc. and the author of this page are not liable for the associated risks of using or acting upon the information contained in this article.

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