Lymphedema Program

Lymphedema Program

Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of water and proteins in the body’s tissue space. Accumulation of lymphatic fluid can occur in the body compartment such as the arm, leg or trunk.

Primary Lymphedema results from a congenital abnormality in the lymphatic system (often not present until later in life). Secondary Lymphedema results from lymphatic system injury, such as surgery, trauma, radiation, cancer, infection or scarring. Both types can interfere with the flow of lymph fluid.


The symptoms of Lymphedema may vary, but often include:

  • Swelling of the hand, arm, chest/breast, foot/leg, pelvis, groin, abdomen, face or neck.
  • A feeling of heaviness or discomfort in the affected areas, loss of mobility and tightness.
  • Repeated infections in a limb.
  • Thickened skin.
  • In severe cases, lymph fluid leaking through the skin.

If left untreated, these symptoms can worsen over time and cause unnecessary discomfort and complications.

Managing Lymphedema

Although there is no known cure for Lymphedema, it can be managed. The goal of treatment is to reduce the swelling and facilitate the flow of lymph fluid.

Complete decongestive therapy is a non-invasive form of treatment that yields an optimal result in volume reduction of limbs and control of Lymphedema. It is provided through the following techniques:

  • Daily/weekly visits for evaluation, treatment and measurements by therapists.
  • Manual Lymph Draining (MLD).
  • Multi-layer bandaging with short stretch compressive bandages.
  • Lymphedema exercises including individualized stretch and strength programs.
  • Vaso-pneumatic pumps.
  • Compression garments.
  • Skin care and self care.
  • Follow-up care including patient education.

Participating in the Lymphedema Program

To participate in Lutheran Hospital’s Lymphedema Program, patients need a physician’s referral for occupational or physical therapy with a diagnosis of Lymphedema. Patients should also contact their medical insurance company for information pertaining to Lymphedema coverage and outpatient therapy services.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy

Occupational Therapy enables people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent—or manage—illness, injury or disability. We offer both inpatient and outpatient services as well as other services which may be helpful.

Outpatient Occupational Therapy Services

  • Upper extremity evaluation (shoulder to hand).
  • Fabrication on custom thermoplastic splints.
  • Prefabricated splints.
  • Lymphedema program.
  • Range of motion.
  • Strengthening.
  • Joint protection training.
  • Wound, scar and edema management.
  • Nerve mobilization and desensitization.
  • Adaptive equipment and activities of daily living training.
  • Body mechanics and ergonomic protection techniques.

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Pelvic Health

Pelvic Health

Pelvic Floor Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic includes treatment for people with urinary or fecal incontinence, urgency/frequency of urination, and/or pain in the pelvic region, including the abdomen, buttocks, tailbone, vagina, rectum, penis or testicles. Pelvic floor muscles may become weak, tight or spastic as a result of disuse, surgery, trauma or chronic tension. Cleveland Clinic’s physical therapists are specially trained to rehabilitate the pelvic floor muscles.

Who can benefit from pelvic floor rehabilitation?

Many people, regardless of gender, experience pelvic pain or incontinence of urine or stool at some point in their lifetime. Pelvic floor rehabilitation is recommended for those who are experiencing any of the following:

  • Increased tension in pelvic floor muscles causing pain.
  • Vaginal pain with intercourse, tampon use or annual OB/GYN check-ups.
  • Incontinence of urine or feces.
  • Pain during pregnancy.
  • Bladder, bowel problems or pelvic girdle pain.
  • Chronic genital, anal or groin pain.
  • Urinary urgency and frequency.
  • Constipation.
  • Chronic prostatitis.
  • Post prostatectomy concerns including incontinence.

What may rehabilitation involve?

Therapy sessions are customized to meet individual needs and produce the best possible outcomes. Based on individual care plans, evaluation and treatment may include:

  • Flexibility, strength, and coordination assessment.
  • Pelvic area internal and external muscle assessment.
  • Myofascial release.
  • Relaxation techniques and diaphragmatic breathing.
  • Biofeedback.
  • Development of an individualized home exercise program.

Pregnancy/Postpartum Rehabilitation

Cleveland Clinic’s Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy team is available to provide mothers with pregnancy and postpartum rehabilitation care for the following issues:

  • Back or pelvic girdle pain.
  • Diastasis rectus abdominis.
  • Urinary or fecal incontinence.
  • Pelvic pain/pressure or pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Pain with intercourse.
  • Scar pain from C-section or a birth injury at the perineum.
  • Muscle weakness.
  • Safe return to exercise following pregnancy.

What might rehabilitation involve?

Therapy sessions are customized to meet the mother’s needs and produce the best possible outcomes for mother and baby. Based on individual care plans and evaluation findings, treatment may include:

  • Flexibility, strength and functional movement exercises.
  • Development of a home exercise program specific to the mother’s needs.
  • Pelvic area internal and external muscle assessment.

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Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy

Lutheran Hospital’s physical therapists promote patient recovery from surgery, injury, and disorders of the musculoskeletal and neurological systems. Physical therapists evaluate and manage the physical therapy plan of care, customizing treatment to patient's individual needs. 

Physical therapists help restore maximal functional independence to each patient. To achieve this goal, a variety of exercise interventions, education, functional activities, manual therapy and physical modalities are used.

Specialty outpatient services offered include the treatment of orthopedic and sports injuries, care after joint replacement, vestibular conditions, pelvic health disorders, spine injuries and back rehabilitation.

Functional capacity evaluations at Lutheran Hospital are available to assess an individual’s capability to perform work duties and meet job demands; or as part of an application process for disability benefits.


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