, Volume 20, Issue 12, pp 3079-3086
Date: 13 Mar 2012

Change in extracellular fluid and arm volumes as a consequence of a single session of lymphatic massage followed by rest with or without compression

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This study evaluated the acute effect of massage and compression components of lymphoedema treatment in women with and without arm lymphoedema secondary to breast cancer from a single treatment session.


Women with (n = 15) and without (n = 15) lymphoedema underwent a single session of lymphatic massage. Following the session, women were randomised to receive or not receive a compression sleeve. Measurements were taken prior to, during, and following the massage as well as 30 min after completion of the massage. Bioimpedance spectrometry (BIS) was used to measure changes in extracellular fluid volume of all limbs as well as 10-cm segments within the upper limbs; perometry was used to measure changes in total upper limb volume as well as 10-cm segments within the limb.


There were no significant changes after massage with or without compression. The median (and interquartile range) BIS ratios (unaffected:affected) for the whole upper limb for women with lymphoedema changed from 1.152 (1.053 to 1.422) to 1.192 (1.045 to 1.410) after massage, while the control group changed from 1.024 (0.998 to 1.047) to 1.041 (0.982 to 1.07). The median change in both the BIS ratio and the total arm volume measured with perometry from prior to the massage to following 30-min rest changed <2%, irrespective of whether women used a compression garment and whether women presented with or without lymphoedema. Examination of 10-cm segments within the arm also revealed no significant change in BIS ratio from one segment to the next.


Massage alone or the application of compression after a single session of lymphatic massage was ineffective for reducing lymphoedema.