Lymphedema: What is It?

Lymphedema is the build-up of fluid in soft body tissues when the lymph system is damaged or blocked.


Lymphedema occurs when the lymph system is damaged or blocked. Fluid builds up in soft body tissues and causes swelling. It is a common problem that may be caused by cancer and cancer treatment. Lymphedema usually affects an arm or leg, but it can also affect other parts of the body. Lymphedema can cause long-term physical, psychological, and social problems for patients.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

  • Swelling in your arms or legs, including fingers or toes.
  • Heaviness or tightness in the affected area.
  • Limited mobility.
  • Repeated occurrences of infections.
  • Stiffening and thickening of the skin, known as fibrosis.

How To Treat Lymphedema

Complete decongestive therapy (CDT) is the most effective way to treat existing lymphedema, and it is most effectively performed by a certified lymphedema therapist (CLT). the treatment includes:

1- Manual lymphatic drainage: a type of massage to assist with moving fluid from the skin back into your working lymphatic system to reduce swelling.

2- Short stretch wrapping: A way of compressing the limb with cotton bandages that allows for a soft cast-like wrap to prevent further lymph fluid from entering, and removing existing lymph fluid.

3- Exercises: The movement of muscles under the skin encourages fluid movement. While exercising with wraps in place the muscles push on the lymphatics from below while the pressure from the wraps over your skin helps to remove the lymph fluid.

4- Skin care: If there are any wounds on your limb, they need to be dressed properly before any short-stretch bandaging can be done. Cleaning the skin and applying a pH-neutral lotion without fragrances are important to maintain the pliability of the skin.

What can Premier Physical Therapy do for you?

Complete Decongestive Therapy is available at Premier Physical Therapy in Omaha, NE by our Certified Lymphedema Therapist, Mr. Brian Tacke, PT, DPT. Brian can also assist with choosing garments that fit your lifestyle and manage your lymphedema.