Massage for Lymphoedema

Massage for lymphoedema
In New Zealand the current treatment for lymphoedema is based on five "cornerstones" of care:
  • light touch massage 
  • compression bandages or garments 
  • extra special care of the limb / area
  • paced exercise
  • and more recently Medical Taping

203x157massage.pngMassage is a cornerstone of care. A trained lymphoedema massage specialist understands the massage for lymphoedema. The massage can be taught to people with lymphoedema, their family, friends or caregivers who can then undertake the massage. The lymphoedema therapist will check your limb and ask questions about your symptoms and treatments.

The limb is often measured. The measurements may be compared to an unaffected limb and also used to check whether the treatment is working. You and your family can be taught how to measure your limbs.

How does the massage work?
Massage uses light slow strokes. The massage is designed to clear the backlog of lymph and help the lymphatic system to work better or to open new channels in nearby healthy tissue.

The massage starts on the unaffected side and gradually clears away the lymph to make room for lymph from the affected side.

A word of caution. Lymphoedema massage may not suitable for you. Consult your doctor if:
  •  you are having treatment for heart failure or blood clots 
  • you have a skin infection, cellulitis or inflammation on the limb / lymphoedema area 
  • you are pregnant
  •  you have active cancer
  • you are having radiotherapy, as the local area is not massaged.

Ordinary massage may make your lymphoedema worse as it may stir up extra fluid. Get advice from a qualified lymphoedema therapist.

How can I find a lymphoedema massage therapist?
Visit our listings of Lymphoedema Therapists or contact your local office of the Cancer Society for information.

Useful Links

Best Practice for the Management of Lymphoedema. International Consensus, 2006 

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