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About Compression Treatment

It can be difficult to live with swelling, that could be painful, caused by Venous Insufficiency and Primary or Secondary Lymphoedema, but complete decongestive therapy (CDT) can help. This usually begins with multi-layer bandaging to reduce the swelling, also known as compression. It involves using short-stretch bandages, or sometimes compression garments, to put pressure on the affected area. Along with Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) skin care and exercise complete the treatment plan.


Multi-layer bandaging (compression) helps to reduce swelling by putting pressure on the affected area, using short-stretch bandaging, and/or compression garments. 

Short-stretch bandages have a high resistance to stretching. In fact, they are designed to extend no more than 60% of their original length and, therefore, are ideal for compression when constant pressure needs to be maintained to treat swelling problems.

Compression garments are firm-fitting, similar to a piece of clothing, they are designed to fit different areas of the body and can be a compression wraps, compression stocking, or, an alternative to a compression stocking.

Manual Lymph Drainage

A special massage called Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is often used to move lymph fluid around blocked areas, to help reduce swelling.


As well as taking part in regular physical activity, there are some light or remedial exercises specially used to manage lymphedema.


Taking good care of your skin helps to reduce the risk of infections, like cellulitis. Keep your skin clean and make sure it’s completely dry before putting on any compression garments.

It will help your care provider, and save time, if you come prepared for your first appointment.

Write down everything you know about your swelling. For instance, when did you first notice swelling? Does it change throughout the day? What have you tried to reduce the swelling? Did it work?

It will also be useful to note down any previous surgery information – including dates, times and treatments – and remember to bring a list of your current medications.

Your doctor or therapist would need to examine the areas of swelling and you may need to undress so that the care provider can conduct a physical examination and assess your needs. Every patient is different, but a typical appointment might include:

  • Palpating the affected area, to examine the texture of the skin
  • Measuring the circumference (size) of swollen limbs
  • Documenting any swelling in photographs
  • Using other tools to measure fluid content
  • Massaging – (like Manual Lymph Drainage) the affected area, to encourage lymph flow
  • Cleaning the affected area and basic skincare education

It might help to wear loose clothing or footwear, as some practitioners might start compression bandaging on the first day. However, you may require approval from your insurance provider before treatment can start.

Here are a few ideas to help you ask the right questions at your first appointment. Write some down and take them with you:

  • Am I going to have to wear compression?
  • Are there going to be any costs associated with the treatment?
  • Are there any co-pays, co-insurance fees that are required?
  • How long will the overall treatment take?
  • How long is each appointment?
  • What are the short-term and long-term goals?
  • What is a compression pump, and do I need one?
  • How can I help myself at home?