Compression pumps and lymphoedema
Occasionally compression pumps are used to treat lymphoedema of the arm or leg.
If your specialist recommends this, you may be shown how to use one at home. It may be possible to borrow a pump from your local hospital as they’re expensive to buy – your lymphoedema specialist can give you more information.
The pump uses electricity from the mains, and is made up of a power unit and an inflatable sleeve, which you put on your arm or leg. Various sizes of sleeve are available. When you switch it on, the sleeve will gradually pump up for a few minutes, then deflate for a few minutes. Your lymphoedema specialist will advise you which pressure to use. Don’t use higher pressures than advised as this could make the swelling worse.
Before you use the pump, it’s important to carry out simple lymphatic drainage massage (SLD) or have manual lymphatic drainage massage (MLD) to your body (trunk) and at the top of the affected limb. This is to drain lymph from these areas before the pump moves more fluid out of your affected limb.
Tips for using a pump
Don’t use the pump if you have an infection or inflammation in the affected limb.
Always remove your compression garment before using the pump, but put it back on as soon as you’ve finished.
When using the pump, support your arm on the arm of your chair, or rest your leg up on a sofa or bed. This will help with drainage.
If you feel pain, stop immediately and consult your doctor.
Watch for any increase in swelling or thickening at the top of the limb where the pump sleeve stops. If this happens, ask for advice.