What Can I Expect When Being Treated for Lymphedema

August 22, 2022

If you've been diagnosed with lymphedema (or suspect you have it), a physical therapist can help. As a Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (LMT), I have advanced training in this area of practice. So I thought it would be helpful for me to explain what I do when treating someone for lymphedema.

Before you begin lymphedema PT, it is vital that you are cleared by your physician to ensure your safety and optimal health. Oftentimes, I will reach out to your physician (oncologist, etc.) to open the lines of communication.

On your first visit, I will evaluate you from head to toe. We will thoroughly discuss your health history, any health concerns, and your goals for physical therapy. I will take some baseline measurements that we can use to track your progress through the course of treatments.

Each visit I will administer what’s known as manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). This manual therapy technique uses a series of light pressure strokes of mainly circular movements that gently stretch the skin to help lymph fluid move freely throughout the body. Many people find MLD to be very relaxing. It also helps with pain relief. Additionally, I will provide you with various exercises to further reinforce correct lymphatic flow and drainage. These can be things like diaphragmatic breathing and basic repeated pain-free movements.

Based on your condition, we can look into compression garments or bandaging with what is known as short stretch bandages. These are applied to help maintain limb volume, shape, and prevent accumulation of lymph fluid in between your sessions.

I will also teach you all about your condition, including the anatomy and physiology behind it. Patient education is a huge component of lymphatic management. This can include dietary recommendations, skin care, exercise instruction, and tips on how you can improve your health and prevent any setbacks.

Under Dr. Lisa Ochman’s mentorship and through my training at the Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy, I’ve learned that the earlier one begins treatment for lymphedema, the better one’s prognosis. For example, if you receive a breast cancer diagnosis, it is recommended that you schedule an evaluation for baseline measurements with a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, even before you begin cancer treatment, in order to carefully monitor any changes to your tissues as you progress through your course of care.

To learn more about how lymphedema PT can help you, click here

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

Dr. Molly Weingart

Physical Therapist
Molly Weingart is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who specializes in pelvic health, women's health, lymphedema treatment, and general orthopedics. She works at Activcore in Princeton, New Jersey, located just 2 miles from Princeton University. Molly believes in tailoring each patient’s treatment to fit that individual’s goals and lifestyle.
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