Managing lymphoedema while cocooning

Doctor touching man's throat

Lymphoedema is a swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid, when the lymphatic system isn’t working properly to remove the fluid. This can happen if lymph nodes are removed during surgery or after radiotherapy to treat cancer. 

Cocooning can be challenging for people living with lymphoedema, so we’ve compiled some of the following helpful tips which might make day-to-day life easier at home.  

  1. Wear your garment

    It’s important to remember to wear your garment as advised by your lymphoedema therapist. If you’ve run out of garments then contact your therapist who may be able to send a replacement. 

  2. Exercise daily 

    Using your muscles helps to “pump” fluid. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you move: up and down the stairs, marching on the spot, or even lifting tins of beans. It’s important to use your affected limb in exercise, so get moving! 

    You’ll find some helpful exercise ideas for people cocooning at this link.  

  3. Skin care 

    It’s very important to keep your skin moisturised, especially when washing hands frequently. Use a non-perfumed moisturiser every day. If you notice any signs of cellulitis (skin infection) such as redness, heat, new swelling etc it is important to seek medical attention. Monitor the area and contact your GP. 

  4. Self Manual Lymphatic Drainage 

    If your lymphoedema therapist has taught you how to complete self manual lymphatic drainage now is a great time to incorporate it into part of your daily routine. Remember to always manage your lymphoedema care in consultation with a healthcare professional. 


Lymphoedema treatment is quite individual, but if you have specific queries about how to manage yours then don’t hesitate to link in with your lymphoedema therapist.  

GPs and healthcare teams are still providing care during this pandemic, and it is important that anyone who is worried they may be experiencing cancer symptoms or a worsening of their existing condition contact their GP or cancer doctor.

Symptoms of lymphoedema can include:

  • Swelling in your arms, hand, fingers or breast
  • Swelling in your leg, foot, toes, lower tummy, buttocks or genital area

You may notice that swelling is less in the morning and gets worse later in the day. The swelling may be soft or hard depending on how long you have had it.

Other symptoms include:

  • A tightness with some clothes, shoes, bracelets, watches, or rings
  • A full, heavy, achy or weak feeling in the arm or leg
  • A tight feeling in the skin. Skin may also be dry, flaky, rough or scaly
  • Changes to your skin colour
  • Trouble moving your arm or leg

We also have lots of general advice on managing lymphoedema our our website

Contact the Irish Cancer Society Support Line

If you have worries or concerns about cancer, you can speak confidentially to an Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurse through the Freephone Support Line on 1800 200 700.

Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.00pm

For more information

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1800 200 700

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