Self Care for Lymphedema


“Self care” is the general term for everything you’ll need to do at home to reduce the risk of the lymphedema coming back or getting worse in the future. Your lymphedema therapist should teach you how to put on and care for your compression sleeves and garments. Other essential components of self care include:

  • protecting your arm, hand, chest, or other body part from cuts, injury, overuse, extreme temperatures, and other situations that can increase the production of lymph, which in turn increases lymphedema risk
  • learning the signs and symptoms of infection, which is a special concern for people with lymphedema
  • setting and sticking to an exercise and/or weight control plan

To learn more about what’s involved with each of these action steps, you can check out our other sections on Reducing Risk of Lymphedema and Lymphedema Flare-Ups and Lymphedema and Infection.

Some lymphedema therapists also try to teach their patients how to do manual lymphatic drainage on their own, at home. Others believe it is such a specialized skill that doing MLD on your own (also called “self-MLD”) isn’t likely to help all that much. Check with your therapist to see what he or she recommends. If you do MLD on your own, follow your therapist’s guidelines closely. Doing more than is recommended, or being more aggressive with the massage strokes for MLD, could be harmful.

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