Our Certified Therapists Provide Relief for Lymphedema

When the natural drainage function of the lymphatic system is impaired – often by cancer treatment, trauma, or genetic predisposition – fluid can build up in the tissues. Eventually the problem, known as lymphedema, can lead to stiffness, pain and infection.  Lymphedema can particularly benefit from a treatment program, Complex Decongestive Physical Therapy, administered by a licensed physical therapist.

Lymphedema occurs generally in the arms and legs due to a blockage in the lymphatic system. It’s caused when the normal drainage of fluid is hindered by a blockage or cut in the lymph nodes in the groin area or the armpit. While sometimes hereditary, lymphedema is usually the result of blockages caused by infection, cancer and scar tissue from radiation therapy or the surgical removal of lymph nodes.

About a third of women whose lymph nodes are dissected during breast cancer treatment will develop lymphedema.

Physical therapists use a variety of methods to encourage lymph flow and reduce swelling. If compression garments are prescribed, a physical therapist will monitor the swelling throughout treatment.

Once swelling decreases, a physical therapist will help patients take over their own care creating a safe exercise program to do at home. A physical therapist can also help provide tips for staying on a proper diet that will decrease fluid buildup in the tissues.

Even if lymphedema doesn’t develop after lymph node removal, a physical therapist can help with an exercise program to improve one’s overall fitness to minimize future risks. Early intervention can help any swelling that develops from getting worse.

A physical therapist trained in lymphedema management can be an important part of your health care team. At Tidewater Physical Therapy, we offer Lymphedema treatment at the following clinics:

Williamsburg Hand Therapy Center
Western Branch


Each of these clinics has Physical Therapists with Direct Access Certification through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy. Feel free to call and make your own appointment without a physician’s referral. Our therapists will work with your physician of record should a referral be needed at any time and our front office staff will work with your insurance carrier.

Blogs related to Lymphedema: