Complex Lymphatic Therapy




The conventional treatment of lymphoedema is a Complex Lymphatic Therapy (CLT), which can produce outstanding outcomes. The initial phase of the treatment can be quite intense. A lymphatic drainage massage followed by bandaging is performed daily for the duration of 7 to 10 days to obtain a significant reduction in the size of the limb. This is actually the easy part of the treatment, and the hardest part consists of complying to a self-care program. However, according to a recent study, a reduction in lymphoedema achieved from a single course of CLT can be successfully maintained for 5 years without further treatment provided the patient is compliant with a proper self-care program.

A self-care program includes wearing a compression garment daily and for some bandaging at night to maintain the limb reduction, exercise, self manual lymphatic drainage, deep abdominal breathing, and good skin care routine to avoid infection in the affected limb.


Lymphatic drainage massage

The lymphatic drainage is a superficial and rhythmical treatment, which involves thorough clearance of an area before moving to the next.  it is also slow because the lymphatic system is rather sluggish and the fluid can be particularly viscous. The lymphatic fluid is drained according to the maping of the lymphatic system in the body. The massage strokes follow the direction of drainage towards the appropriate nodal site.

The lymph nodes are regarded as filtering stations. They are gently but more strongly pumped and scooped.In cases where lymph nodes have been removed, as in cancer surgery,  it is necessary to bypass an area of drainage towards another nodal site to obtain a reduction in swelling.

The deep lymphatic system is innervated just like the blood circulation, only approximately 6 times per minute in comparison with the heart, which pumps the blood at the rate of 60 times per minute. A lymphatic drainage massage can increase the pumping of the lymph vessels up to 50 times per minute.


Compression garments

The basic treatment for all venous and lymphatic drainage disorders is compression therapy. A medical compression garment correctly fitted stops swelling from occuring and also maintains a reduction in swelling which may have occur after bandaging or a lymphatic drainage. It works by increasing the pressure within the tissue, reinforcing the skin against which muscles contract. It has a pressure gradient which is highest at the smallest point of the ankle or the wrist. It is recommended to wear a medical compression garment for the following conditions:

  • Lymphoedema
  • Oedema and varices during pregnancy
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Phlebitis
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis



Bandaging for a very swollen limb for 6 to 10 days may also be an option to achieve a faster, more substantial reduction before wearing the garment. Bandaging is such an important part of complex lymphatic therapy and it requires the expertise of a certified CLT therapist. There are also numerous benefits to learn how to self-bandage. It is more cost effective, it gives you a sense of independence, and it is an efficient way to maintain a reduction in the size of your limb.


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