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Noninvasive Therapies for Lymphedema

Your doctor may refer you to experts at NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation for a physical therapy evaluation and treatment for lymphedema. A certified lymphedema therapist evaluates the affected area, creates a treatment plan to help reduce swelling, and educates you on lymphedema self-management.

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The goals of lymphedema therapy are to ease discomfort by reducing swelling, restore function in the affected limbs, and prevent infection. To help manage swelling, our experts may recommend complete decongestive therapy, a combination of approaches that many experts consider the gold standard of lymphedema treatment. Each session lasts about 55 minutes. 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

This specialized type of massage helps mobilize built-up lymph through swollen and congested areas.

Compression Therapy

This therapy can move lymph fluid out of the tissues and into the bloodstream. It can include compression garments, multilayer bandages, or a compression pump.

Compression Garments

Compression garments may be prescribed to help move fluid in swollen areas. These garments are individualized according to your area of swelling. Healthcare providers may recommend wearing compression socks, stockings, sleeves, gloves, support bras, or vests, for example. These garments apply pressure to different parts of the legs, feet, chest, or arms to keep lymphatic fluid moving in the right direction.

Multilayer Bandages

Layers of bandages wrapped on an affected arm or leg work like custom-made compression garments to help reduce swelling and encourage softening of the skin in the affected area.

Pneumatic Compression Devices

These pumps, which apply intermittent pressure to an arm or leg, can be used by patients at home. Padded, inflatable sleeves, vests, or stockings are connected to an external pump that delivers pressure on a timed cycle. This stimulates the flow of lymphatic fluid, helping to reduce swelling. Many patients gain significant improvement in their lymphedema by using these types of devices.


Our experts can help create an exercise program that uses the natural pumping mechanisms of muscles in and around the affected area to help promote lymphatic circulation. It can also help keep the muscles in the area strong and flexible, which can aid in lymph and blood circulation.

Skin Care and Hygiene

Our experts educate people with lymphedema on the importance of meticulous skin care and hygiene, which help decrease the risk of infection and prevent further swelling.

Our Research and Education in Lymphedema

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.