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Lymphedema Treatment

Helping patient manage lymphedema symptoms

Southwest General’s Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Department offers a four- to eight-week Lymphedema Treatment Program designed to help patients manage the symptoms of lymphedema.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is the abnormal accumulation of protein-rich lymphatic fluid that causes swelling (edema) primarily in the arms, hands, chest or legs, but that can affect any part of the body. It occurs when the normal drainage pattern of the lymph nodes is compromised. Lymphedema may be inherited or may be the result of surgery or trauma.

Patients who have taken part in the Lymphedema Treatment Program at Southwest General have experienced benefits ranging from reduced swelling and pain to improved skin appearance. A physician referral is required to begin the program.

Patients at Risk

Patients with a history of any of the following may be at risk for developing lymphedema:

  • Breast cancer surgery
  • Cancer of the lymph nodes
  • Chronic venous insufficiency
  • Filariasis
  • Cellulitis/Lymphangitis
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Joint replacements
  • Radiation therapy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Vascular surgery
  • Traumatic injuries
  • Horizontal incisions

Symptoms generally include:

  • A feeling of fullness or tightness in the arm or leg
  • Aching or pain in the arm or leg
  • Skin tightness
  • Decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle
  • Weakness in the affected arm or leg
  • Difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area
  • Swelling in the hand (may be evidenced by rings, bracelets or watches that no longer fit)
  • Weeping of the skin

Currently, there is no known cure for lymphedema, but there are a variety of techniques to help manage the symptoms of lymphedema and make day-to-day activities as fulfilling and rewarding as possible.

Helping Patients to Cope with the Symptoms of Lymphedema

Southwest General’s Lymphedema Treatment program is designed to teach patients and family members how to manage the condition independently at home. After an initial assessment, a specially trained lymphedema therapist develops an individualized plan of care to help reduce fluid volume, increase range of motion, and teach self massage and bandaging techniques.


Patients in Southwest General’s Lymphedema Treatment Program benefit from a variety of state-of-the-art treatments, including:

  • Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
    This technique uses a specific pattern of very slow, light and rhythmic stretching of the skin to reduce swelling. It facilitates the re-absorption of excess fluid into the lymph vessels and out of the affected area. MLD techniques help to create alternate pathways for compromised vessels and lymph nodes. Gentle and non-invasive, MLD also stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and produces a sense of relaxation.
  • Compression Garments
    Wearing a customized compression sleeve or elastic bandage may help to prevent the accumulation of fluid. Initially, the lymphedema therapist may apply bandages to reduce swelling and limb size following MLD. Patients are educated on maintaining limb reduction with self-bandaging techniques. Once the limb is significantly reduced, compression garments can be worn. These garments must be replaced every six months.
  • Patient Education
    Lymphedema management is an ongoing process. Each patient is taught a unique andspecific program of self-care that includes skin care and hygiene, prevention of infection, self-massage techniques, bandaging techniques and nutrition.
  • Exercise
    Exercise improves lymphatic flow, restores flexibility and increases range of motion.

What are the Benefits of Lymphedema Treatment?

Lymphedema treatment helps patients by providing:

  • Reduced fluid volume
  • Reduced swelling
  • Improved limb appearance and skin integrity
  • Increased range of motion and mobility of the affected area
  • Decreased pain
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Improved skin appearance

Insurance Information

A physician referral is required for Lymphedema Treatment and most major insurance providers cover lymphedema treatment.

We Look Forward to Helping You

To learn more about our Lymphedema Treatment Program or to schedule an appointment, call 833-SW-REHAB (833-797-3422).

Lymphedema Treatment is available at:

LifeWorks Therapy Services of Southwest General
7390 Old Oak Blvd.
Middleburg Heights, OH 44130
Phone: 440-816-8010
Fax: 440-816-4850