Complete Decongestive Therapy

Currently, the most effective and least invasive approach to manage or treat lymphedema is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), a combination of skin care, manual lymph drainage (MLD), bandaging/compression and remedial exercises.

Skin Care

  • Hygiene and Topical Skin Care
  • Eliminating bacterial or fungal growth
  • Using pH-balanced skin lotions
  • Teaching meticulous skin and nail care

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

Manual lymph drainage (MLD) is designed to increase the flow of lymph and interstitial fluid. The goal of this light, gentle massage is to find areas of sufficient drainage and push stagnant lymph fluid there. MLD also has a soothing, analgesic effect and many feel energized at the end of a session.

  • Specific manual movements along lymphatic pathways that empty and release obstructive lymph vessels
  • Applying light, rhythmic pressure in circular motions to stimulate movement of lymph fluid along the vessel pathway


  • Bandaging follows each manual lymphatic drainage session
  • Bandages are minimally elastic and prevent lymph fluid from reentering the affected arm or leg
  • Bandages are worn overnight until the next session
  • Upon completion of the course of treatment, the patient is custom-fit for an elastic support garment when the arm or leg is close to normal

Remedial Exercises

  • Exercises with bandages in place are prescribed for each patient to complete daily
  • Exercise activates each muscle group and causes the swollen arm or leg joint to have better lymph flow