Understanding Lymphedema Therapy

A gentle approach to managing lymphedema.

What Is Lymphedema? What Causes Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a chronic (Long-term) condition in which excess fluid (lymph) collects in tissues causing edema (swelling). It is edema due to lymphatic fluid, a blockage of the lymphatic system, which can be very debilitating.

Lymphedema commonly affects one of the arms or legs, in some cases both arms or legs. Some patients may experience swelling in the head, genitals and chest. It is often a consequence of surgically removing lymph nodes in the armpit (axilla) or groin, or their damage caused by radiography. The normal drainage of the lymph is faulty. Lymphedema is incurable. However, with diligent care it can be controlled

What Is The Lymphatic System?

The Lymphatic System consists of tissues and organs that produce and store cells that fight disease and infection. They include the bone marrow, thymus, lymph nodes and spleen, as well as the channels that carry lymph. There is a series of vessels and glands that comprise the lymph system and they are spread throughout the body similar to blood vessels. A disruption of the lymph system can eventually undermine its ability to drain fluid properly, resulting in excess fluid in parts of the body, which creates great risks of infection.

There are two main types of lymphedema:

Primary Lymphedema – Often called “congenital lymphedema.” The lymphedema is evident at birth or shortly after puberty. It is caused by congenital malformation (faulty genes) of the lymph system. This type is rare, affecting approximately 1 in every 10,000 people.

Secondary Lymphedema – This lymphedema occurs as a result of a catalyst such as infection, injury, trauma or cancer, which affects the lymphatic system. Lymphedema may also be a side effect of cancer treatment, such as radiotherapy or the removal of lymph nodes, which may damage the lymph system. This second type of lymphedema is more common.

What Are The Treatment Options For Lymphedema?

Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) is the most common and doctoral recommended treatment for lymphedema. It has four components:

  1. MLD ( manual lymphatic drainage) – the massage therapist uses special techniques to move fluid into working lymph nodes, where they are then drained. It is crucial that this is done by a fully trained lymphedema therapist and not just a regular therapist. The therapist needs a thorough knowledge of the lymphatic system for this to work. As a lymphedema therapist, I also teach several massage techniques that can be used during the maintenance phase.
    ** Patients who have a history of heart disease, deep vein thrombosis or kidney disease may not be suitable for MLD.
  2. MLLB ( multilayer lymphedema bandaging) – muscles surrounding lymph vessels and nodes move the fluid through the lymphatic system. Unlike the circulation of blood there is no pump (heart) for lymph fluids, so bandaging and compression garments support the muscles and encourage them to move fluid out of the affected body part. My patients will be taught how to apply their own bandages and compression garments correctly.
  3. Exercise – light exercises can encouraging movement of the lymph fluid out of the limb.
  4. Skin Care – taking good care of your skin reduces the risk of infections.


Starting January 1st, 2024 Lymphedema garments may be covered by Medicare

Please fill out and bring the following paperwork with you to your appointment.





Certified Lymphedema Therapy

I have been certified as a Lymphedema Therapist for over 10 years and am able to help a wide variety of issues related to the Lymph System using Manuel Lymph Drainage, Bandaging and Garment Fitting.

Babette Maiss


Babette Maiss, CMF,CLT,CMT

13 Williamsburg Ln,
Chico, CA



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