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Compression (1) for Lymphedema Treatment


Three varieties of compression are used, as appropriate, in the treatment of lymphedema. Although different methods of compression are used, the goals of this type of treatment are similar in that they are used to:

  • Maintain the progress in reducing the swelling that has been made during a MLD treatment session.
  • Prevent, or minimize, additional swelling in the affected area.
  • Encourage the natural drainage of lymph from the treated tissues.
  • Stimulate the flow of lymph by providing resistance that enhances the effectiveness of muscle and joint pumps.
  • Maintain the progress that has been made during the treatment session in softening fibrotic (hardened) tissues.


Three major types of compression are used effectively to meet the compression needs and goals of the patient despite  having different needs and at different levels of activity. Different types of compression methods are described in the next few articles. This is important information, to be sure to read all of the articles in this series.



Bandaging is also known as wrapping, or self-wrapping, is the most effective and flexible form of compression in the early stage of treatment of lymphedema.

Bandages have the advantages in that:

  • They can be worn for up to 24 hours a day whether the patient is active, or resting.
  • They are adjustable to fit properly, with appropriate compression, as the affected limb reduces in size.
  • This technique can be taught to the patient as self-bandaging.
  • To learn more about bandaging, read the article titled Compression (2) Bandaging


Knit compression garments, are also known as "day garments." This is because these garments are worn only during the day when the patient is awake and active.

  • These knit garments are not worn while the patient is sleeping because they provide too much compression while the body is at rest. Also, if the garment moves out of place during sleep, this can cause constriction that will constrict and damage the circulation.
  • These knit garments are constructed as sleeves, gloves, gauntlets (gloves without fingers), and stockings that can be knee-high or thigh-high. These garments are constructed oftwo-way knit stretch fabrics.
  • They are designed to assist in controlling swelling and to aid in moving lymph from the affected area.
  • The amount of compression provided by the garment depends on if way the fabric is constructed. These are commonly a knit fabric or a woven fabric. The choice of fabric is based on the needs of the patient.
  • To learn more about these types of garments read Compression (3) Knit Garments.


Compression aids are known as night garmentsbecause they are usually worn when the patient is resting or sleeping. They are designed to control swelling, enhance the flow of lymph, and to assist in softening fibrotic (hardened) tissues.

  • These aids are custom-fitted sleeves, stockings, or pads that are made of a fabric covered layer of foam that is stitched into a pattern to drain lymph away from the affected area.
  • If increased compression is required, an outer sleeve (known as a power sleeve) is place over the garment. Another way of gaining more compression is to wrap bandages over the garment .
  • To learn more, read Compression (4) Specialized Aids.


  • Living Well with Lymphedema by A. Ehrlich, MA, A. Harrewijn PT, CLT-LANA, and E. McMahon PhD. Lymph Notes. 2005.
  • Lymphedema Caregiver’s Guide by Mary Kathleen Kearse, PT, CLT-LANA, Elizabeth McMahon, PhD, and Ann Ehrlich, MA. Lymph Notes 2009, pages 33-35.

© LymphNotes.com 2015. This information does not replace the advice of a qualified health care  professional.

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'How Lymphedema is Treated' forum.
Category: How Lymphedema is Treated Updated: 2015-01-10


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