Lymphedema Physical Therapy: Understanding and Managing Lymphedema Swelling

Lymphedema Physical Therapy: Understanding and Managing Lymphedema Swelling

June 27, 2023

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Lymphedema Physical Therapy: Understanding and Managing Lymphedema Swelling


Lymphedema is a condition characterized by the swelling of tissues due to the accumulation of protein-rich fluid. This fluid is usually drained through the lymphatic system in the body. While lymphedema commonly affects the arms or legs, it can also occur in other areas such as the chest wall, abdomen, neck, and genitals. It can cause discomfort and affect a person’s ability to perform daily activities.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

Lymphedema can manifest through several symptoms, including:

  1. Swelling in the arms, legs, shoulders, hands, fingers, chest, or neck.
  2. Tighter, harder, or thicker skin in the affected area.
  3. Aching, tingling, or a heavy feeling in the arm or leg.
  4. Weakness in the arm or leg.
  5. Reduced range of motion in certain joints, such as the wrist or ankle.
  6. Pitting (indentation) in the tissues of the limb.

Causes of Lymphedema

Lymphedema can be caused by various factors, including:

  1. Cancer: Lymphedema may develop as a result of cancer or its treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy.
  2. Surgery: Surgical procedures involving the lymph nodes can disrupt the flow of lymphatic fluid, leading to lymphedema.
  3. Parasites: Certain parasitic infections can obstruct the lymphatic system, leading to fluid buildup and swelling.

How Lymphedema is Managed with Physical Therapy

If you have lymphedema, your physical therapist will play a crucial role in managing your condition. They will carefully monitor the size of the affected limb during your treatment sessions. Once the desired measurements are reached, your physical therapist will guide you in taking over your own care.

Compression Garments and Exercise Programs

Physical therapists can help you develop a safe and personalized exercise program to improve lymphatic flow and reduce swelling. They will also assist in ensuring your compression garments, such as sleeves or stockings, fit properly to provide optimal support.

Education on Nutrition and Skin Care

Your physical therapist will educate you on how proper nutrition and diet can reduce the risk of infection. Skin and nail care will also be emphasized to maintain overall skin health and minimize the chances of secondary complications.

To learn more about lymphedema and its management, please refer to the following reputable external links:


Lymphedema can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, but with the help of a skilled physical therapist, it can be effectively managed. Physical therapy interventions, such as exercise programs and compression garments, can help reduce swelling and improve lymphatic flow. In addition, education on nutrition and skin care is important for maintaining overall health and preventing complications. If you are experiencing symptoms of lymphedema, contact TriStar Physical Therapy and schedule a consultation with our experienced team today.

Author: TriStar Physical Therapy