Lymphedema Physical Therapy

Do you have Lymphedema or know someone with this problem? In a lot of these cases Lymphedema Physical Therapy can help!

What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling that builds up over time and does not go away quickly (chronic swelling).

This happens when lymph fluid is not moving well through a part of the body and protein-rich fluid collects in the tissues.

The lymph system helps manage fluid volume and fight disease. Lymphedema happens slowly unless there is an injury or infection to the area of the body where your lymph nodes and vessels are not working.

What are some Risk Factors for Developing Lymphedema?

Some factors that increase the risk of developing lymphedema include:

  • Lymph node removal
  • Receiving radiation therapy
  • Being overweight
  • Having active cancer
  • Infection or Injury to the body part at risk for lymphedema

Not all swelling in the body is lymphedema. Talk to your provider if you notice any new or worsening swelling.

What are Some Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema?

  • Swelling that often begins at the far end of your limb (hands and feet) and then moves up the arm or leg. The swelling does not get better over time and may slowly get worse
  • Skin can be pitting, that is when you press a finger into the area, a pit or indentation remains
  • Swelling may or may not go down even with elevation that is keeping the affected body part above the level of your heart
  • Hardening of the tissues in the affected area

What is Lymphedema Physical Therapy?

Orthocare Physical Therapy Center Complete Decongestive Therapy CDT

Lymphedema is often treated in Physical Therapy via Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) which is considered the GOLD Standard for treating Lymphedema.

CDT aims to reduce your swelling, improve skin condition, increase mobility, reduce infection risk, and optimize overall health.

Manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging, exercises, skin care, self-management are all components of CDT.

How Long Does Treatment Take?

It depends!

CDT is performed for one-hour sessions, 4 to 5 days per week.

On average, the Active Treatment phase can take anywhere from 2-4 weeks or even 8 weeks.

This time may be needed to get the extra lymph out of the affected body region, to reduce visible swelling, and to reduce other symptoms.

Then, depending on the reason, you may be in the maintenance phase for a longer time i.e., months to years to gain long-term control.

CDT Treatment

At Orthocare Physical Therapy Center, Dr. Shruti Ambegaonkar is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT).

Dr. Ambegaonkar and has completed specialized training to effectively help patients manage lymphedema using

  • In-person treatment,
  • Home Exercise Program, and
  • Self-management techniques

Once you have a prescription for Lymphedema therapy from your doctor, call our office at 703-310-7610 to schedule your appointment.

Does Insurance Cover Lymphedema Therapy?

Generally, Yes.

Lymphedema therapy is generally covered by most insurance. You may have co-pays and deductibles as per your insurance plan.

You may have added costs for compression wraps, bandages, stockings, or sleeves.  Your health care insurance will generally help pay for a few of these bandaging wraps annually. Currently, Medicare does not pay for any type of compression supplies.

Still, every insurance carrier and plan are different. So, it is important to check with your insurance to understand your benefits BEFORE beginning treatment.

Our staff at Orthocare Physical Therapy Center will perform a courtesy insurance verification to help understand coverage details.

What to Expect during the First Visit?

During your first visit, our CLT will ask you questions about your related past medical history, pain, lifestyle, and discuss your goals for therapy.

Then, the Physical Therapist will examine your mobility, measure the girth (i.e., size) of the involved body part, assess strength, skin integrity, and other factors related to your condition.

Then, the CLT will design a custom treatment plan based on your condition, physical, and emotional needs.

The therapist will educate you about the lymphatic system, the diagnosis, and provide you information about precautions and compression options. 

The goal of therapy is for you to be independent with home management of lymphedema. By the end of therapy, you should have the tools for successful lymphedema self-management. As always, the therapists are available for consultation as needed.

How Should I Dress For My Therapy Sessions?


Wear loose fitting clothing to your first session.

Your therapist will discuss future clothing and footwear needs as you begin CDT.


A common consideration is that your shoes will need to be two to three sizes larger than normal to accommodate any bandaging performed during therapy.

Oftentimes, our patients often borrow shoes from their spouse or partner allow for this increased footwear size.

Call us for Lymphedema Physical Therapy

So contact us today at 703-310-7610 to see how we can help with your Lymphedema!

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