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Lymphedema Therapy

Complete Decongestive Therapy

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) utilizes a hands-on technique, involving manual lymph drainage, compression, meticulous skin care and nail care, and exercise to reroute lymphatic fluid to allow for limb drainage, reduced risk of infection, and increased function.

Goals of CDT

  • Decongest swollen body parts
  • Eliminate fibrotic tissue
  • Utilize remaining lymph vessels and other lymphatic pathways to allow for limb drainage
  • Avoid reaccumulation of lymph fluid
  • Prevent/ Eliminate infection
  • Maintain normal / near normal size of limb

Manual Lymph Drainage

Manual lymph drainage is a gentle, manual treatment that improves the activity of the lymph vascular system.  In lymphedema, it reroutes the lymph flow around the blocked areas into more centrally located healthy lymph vessels that drain into the venous system. Manual lymph drainage:

  • Improves lymph production
  • Improves lymph circulation
  • Reduces areas of fibrosis
  • May decrease pain


Compression is a gradient of pressure used increase the tissue pressure in the swollen extremity.  This is accomplished by using several layers of short stretch bandages, custom compression garments, or one of many other alternatives.  Compression is utilized twenty-three hours per day for optimal results. Compression:

  • Increases reabsorption of fluid
  • Increases the efficiency of the muscle
  • Prevents reaccumulation of lymph fluid
  • Decreases fibrosis
  • Conserves the results obtained during manual lymph drainage


A gentle range of motion exercises completed daily will assist with edema reduction, increase mobility, and increase overall function. Exercise:

  • Increases lymph vessel activity
  • Improves lymph circulation
  • Completed only with compression to prevent reaccumulation of fluid
  • Increase range of motion and strength

Meticulous Skin and Nail Care

Daily hygiene, lotion, and prevention techniques used to decrease infection and wounds:

  • Eliminate bacterial and fungal growth
  • Reduce the chance of infection