How to Do Lymphedema Self-Care at Home? Lymphedema Self-Care for the Legs, Feet, Arm, Neck and Breast

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that results from a malfunctioning lymphatic system, leading to the accumulation of lymph fluid and subsequent swelling, typically in the arms, legs, feet, neck, and breasts. Effective self-care practices can help manage and reduce the symptoms of lymphedema. This article will guide you through essential lymphedema self-care techniques for different parts of the body, including the legs, feet, arms, neck, and breasts, to help you maintain better health and improve your quality of life.

How to Do Lymphedema Self-Care at Home?

Managing lymphedema at home requires a comprehensive approach, combining various techniques to reduce swelling and promote lymphatic drainage. Here are some general self-care strategies applicable to all body parts affected by lymphedema:

1. Compression Garments:

Wearing compression garments helps maintain the pressure on the lymphatic vessels, preventing fluid buildup. These garments should be properly fitted and worn as recommended by your healthcare provider.

2. Exercise:

Regular, gentle exercises can enhance lymphatic flow and reduce swelling. Focus on low-impact activities like walking, swimming, or specific exercises designed for lymphedema.

3. Skin Care:

Proper skin care is crucial to prevent infections, which can worsen lymphedema. Keep the skin clean, moisturized, and free from cuts or abrasions.

4. Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD):

MLD is a specialized massage technique that helps move lymph fluid from the swollen areas towards the functioning lymph nodes. It should be performed by a trained professional or as instructed by them for self-massage.

Lymphedema Self-Care for the Legs

Managing lymphedema in the legs requires specific attention to reduce swelling and improve mobility. Here are some effective strategies:

1. Compression Stockings:

Compression stockings are essential for managing leg lymphedema. They apply consistent pressure, preventing fluid accumulation. Ensure you have the right fit and wear them as prescribed.

2. Leg Elevation:

Elevating your legs above the level of your heart several times a day can help reduce swelling. This encourages fluid to move back into the circulatory system.

3. Regular Exercise:

Engage in gentle leg exercises, such as ankle pumps, calf raises, and walking, to promote lymphatic drainage. These exercises help activate the muscle pump, enhancing fluid movement.

4. Skin Care:

Keep the skin on your legs clean and moisturized. Check for signs of infection or skin changes, and consult your healthcare provider if you notice any issues.

5. Manual Lymph Drainage:

If taught by a professional, perform MLD on your legs to facilitate lymph fluid movement. Be gentle and follow the recommended techniques.

Lymphedema Self-Care for the Feet

Lymphedema in the feet can be particularly uncomfortable, but effective self-care can alleviate symptoms:

1. Compression Socks:

Compression socks, similar to stockings, help manage swelling in the feet. Ensure they fit well and are worn consistently.

2. Foot Exercises:

Gentle exercises like toe curls, ankle circles, and walking can promote lymphatic flow. Avoid high-impact activities that may exacerbate swelling.

3. Foot Elevation:

Elevate your feet whenever possible to reduce fluid accumulation. Use pillows or a footrest to keep your feet elevated, especially during rest.

4. Proper Footwear:

Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes that do not constrict your feet. Avoid tight socks or shoes that can impede circulation.

5. Skin Care:

Keep your feet clean and moisturized to prevent infections. Inspect your feet regularly for any cuts, blisters, or signs of infection.

Lymphedema Self-Care for the Arm

Lymphedema in the arm, often a result of breast cancer treatment, can be managed with dedicated self-care routines:

1. Compression Sleeves:

Wear compression sleeves to maintain pressure on the lymphatic vessels. These should be worn as directed by your healthcare provider.

2. Arm Exercises:

Engage in gentle arm exercises such as arm circles, wrist flexes, and shoulder shrugs. These exercises promote lymphatic flow and reduce stiffness.

3. Manual Lymph Drainage:

If instructed by a professional, perform MLD on your arm to facilitate fluid movement. Follow the correct techniques to avoid injury.

4. Avoid Strain:

Avoid lifting heavy objects or performing repetitive motions that can strain your arm. Use the unaffected arm for strenuous activities.

5. Skin Care:

Keep the skin on your arm clean and moisturized. Protect it from cuts, insect bites, and burns, which can lead to infections.

Lymphedema Self-Care for Neck

Managing lymphedema in the neck requires careful attention due to the proximity to vital structures:

1. Manual Lymph Drainage:

Perform gentle MLD as directed by a professional to reduce swelling in the neck area. Be cautious and follow instructions precisely.

2. Neck Exercises:

Engage in gentle neck exercises, such as neck rotations and tilts, to promote lymphatic flow. Avoid sudden or jerky movements.

3. Proper Posture:

Maintain good posture to prevent additional strain on your neck. Use ergonomic pillows and supports to keep your neck aligned.

4. Hydration:

Stay hydrated to keep lymph fluid thin and promote easier movement. Drink plenty of water throughout the day.

5. Skin Care:

Keep the skin on your neck clean and moisturized. Watch for signs of infection or irritation and seek medical advice if needed.

Lymphedema Self-Care for Breast

Lymphedema in the breast, often related to breast cancer treatment, requires specific care strategies:

1. Compression Bras:

Wear a well-fitted compression bra to support the breast and reduce swelling. Ensure the bra is comfortable and provides adequate pressure.

2. Breast Massage:

Perform gentle breast massages as instructed by a professional to facilitate lymphatic drainage. Follow the recommended techniques carefully.

3. Exercise:

Engage in gentle upper body exercises to promote lymphatic flow. Focus on activities like shoulder rolls, arm stretches, and light aerobic exercises.

4. Avoid Tight Clothing:

Avoid tight clothing that can restrict lymphatic flow. Choose loose, comfortable clothing to prevent additional pressure on the breast.

5. Skin Care:

Keep the skin on your breast clean and moisturized. Monitor for signs of infection or changes in the skin and consult your healthcare provider if necessary.


Effective lymphedema self-care at home involves a combination of compression garments, regular exercise, proper skin care, and manual lymph drainage. By following these strategies tailored to specific body parts, individuals with lymphedema can manage their condition better and improve their quality of life. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new self-care routine to ensure it is safe and appropriate for your specific needs.

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