Lymphedema Self-Massage For Prevention and Relief


When I had my double mastectomy, I had 16 lymph nodes removed on the left side and the sentinel node removed on the right. Since one of the major functions of the lymphatic system is to carry fluids from the tissues and cellular spaces back to the bloodstream, fluid accumulation can become a real problem after this surgery. This is mainly noticeable on the arm and fingers of the affected side and can be severe, sometimes requiring the use of a special compression sleeve along with physical therapy.


I was lucky enough to have an appointment shortly after surgery with a lymphedema specialist at the rehab center. I had no symptoms at the time, but she showed me some simple self-massage techniques I could use to prevent fluid accumulation and to manage it if it became an issue. I have used the self-massage regularly, and I haven’t had any significant problems.

Since the diagram she gave me was a bit cluttered and marked up, I found the video below which I think is pretty good, although very extensive. I would note that the lady in the video does not massage the armpit on the affected side. I do, and I think it helps.

As I’ve mentioned to some of the ladies I talk to, I feel that exercise has been the biggest factor in preventing lymphedema for me. I can tell a huge difference in the fluid pressure if I don’t get some aerobic activity in for a few days. I’m a runner, but I don’t think you have to go to this extreme, unless you want to:) Even brisk walking, while swinging the arms, will help to keep the lymph from stagnating. Lifting weights is also beneficial, and I try to do this at least once per week using some simple exercises with free weights.

I hope you find the video helpful.