Decongestive exercises for lymphedema patients

“Why on earth should I do gymnastics with my bandaged arm (or leg)?” This is a question we are often asked, and it is a justified one. The patients’ freedom of movement is greatly reduced due to bandaging, which makes exercising very cumbersome.

Effect of lymphedema gymnastics

The Dr. Vodder Method of Manual Lymph Drainage results in a marked reduction of edema. To maintain this result or improve it further, the therapist bandages the affected limb(s). Any movement with the bandaged limb will reduce edema volume for the following reasons:  

  • a) In addition to the "pressure" of the bandages moving the extremity creates a strong compression with the muscels. All vessels (veins and lymphvessels)who are in between bandage and muscles will be drained by this force.

    This leads to an quicker bloodstream and improves a better backflow of the lymphatic system.
  • b) Needing more oxygene the arterial bloodstream will be raised automatically by an higher muscleacitivy. Close to the arteries a lot of lymphvessels are situated. 

    The higher pulsation of the arteries has an stimulating effect on the lymphatic system. That's why we have a better drainage of the deep lymph vessel system. 

Which exercises are best suited for lymphedema patients?

The optimum decongestive exercise for the lower extremities is climbing stairs. We also recommend activities such as cycling, Nordic walking, hiking and walking.

As an in-patient at the Lymphedema Clinic Wittlinger, you have the opportunity to enjoy our beautiful Lake Walchsee and the impressive Kaiserwinkl environment while engaging in outdoor activities.

Activities such as cleaning, cooking and washing will involve considerable use of the arm muscles. If your daily routine involves engaging in these activities, it is important to know that straining or overusing muscles may lead to inflammation and/or worsening of your edema.

We made several videos showing some excercises from our physiotherapists during their daily group excercise with our lipedema and lymphedema patients. Join and feel the effect!



In addition to Dr. Vodder’s Manual Lymph Drainage, another important pillar of lymphedema treatment is correct and consistent bandaging. (Compression) bandaging supports the positive effect of MLD. 

Consistent Bandaging

Bandaging increases both lymph and venous return, and also serves to soften fibroses. Fibroses are changes in skin texture frequently associated with lymphedema. The proteins accumulated in the tissue cause the tissue to harden.

At the Wittlinger Therapy Center in Kaiserwinkl/Tyrol we use bandages by Messrs. Lohmann-Rauscher for treating our lymphedema patients. We distinguish between long stretch and short stretch bandaging. The specific properties of these different bandages produce specific effects in the lymphedematous arms or legs. 

Compression stockings

Wearing compression stockings is indispensable for maintaining the positive effects of Dr. Vodder’s MLD. At the end of the second week of the standard three-week stay at the Wittlinger Therapy Center, measurements are taken by a specially trained member of our therapy unit for individually fitted compression stockings, as prescribed by our physician. These stockings are given to patients for post-therapy use upon discharge from residential treatment at the Wittlinger Therapy Center. 

If patients wear their custom-made stockings on a daily basis, the success of their residential stay (edema volume reduction) will be maintained over a long period of time, during which venous and lymphatic return are stimulated and missing tissue pressure is substituted and compensated.

Our primary supplier of compression stockings is Messers. Jobst

There are two basic types of compression hosiery, flat bed knit stockings and circular knit stockings:

  • Flat´s knit stockings: feature seams down the back, are suited for high Compression Classes and offer many made-to-measure varieties for special needs, comfortable to wear
  • Circular knit stockings: have no seams; suited for lower Compression Classes and comfortable to wear, but provide only a few made-to-measure options for special needs