Massage Therapy for Lymphedema and Lymphatic Conditions

Carmen Thompson practices a combination of outpatient physical therapy for lymphedema and private massage therapy for lymphedema and lymphatic conditions in addition to teaching certification courses for massage therapists. Read more about Carmen's work below, or learn more at her CE course at the AMTA National Convention

Why massage therapy?

I was always interested in massage  growing up and it just seemed natural to continue as I grew older. I began "real" massages when I was in physical therapy school.  I got my degree in physical therapy and then realized some of the paper work, red tape and bureaucracy limitations took up so much of my therapeutic time. I got my massage therapy license reinstated in 2008 in order to treat more lymphedema and lymphatic care patients.

What is your current work environment like?

I practice a combination of outpatient physical therapy for lymphedema and private pay massage therapy for lymphedema and lymphatic conditions. I also teach certification courses for massage therapists, physical therapists and occupational therapists through Monarch Continuing Education at We are very proud of this program and the number of patients we have been able to treat for a highly underserved, rare disorder.

What do you enjoy most about this work?

The combination of patient care and education. It is so exciting to meet patients who are thankful for your care, as they have been underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed and untreated for a very long time. I also learn from working with professional students who have the same passion that I do. They rekindle my spirit and renew my energy to keep working hard.

What are some of the challenges you face?

The mix of teaching and patient care is a benefit in some ways; however, being on the road teaching and being away from my children once a month is the biggest challenge.  Also, focusing on the student questions and patient questions that I get on a daily basis, even after hours, is a challenge.

How has AMTA impacted your career?

I first became familiar with AMTA's liability insurance benefits and the articles in the journal. It was useful when I was learning about massage as a career and learning how the association was involved in everyday practice. The other benefit of AMTA, of course, is advertising of fantastic continuing education programs and the ability to get that information out to therapists across the country.

What will attendees take away from your session at the National Convention?

Manual lymph drainage does not have to be as complex or laborious as previously thought. There are many ways to use manual lymph drainage for acute and chronic conditions, not always just related to post-oncology care. Although the lightest of all the modalities, manual lymph drainage has been found to have the most beneficial effects for concerns of decongestion of tissues (edema) or detoxification (auto-immune disorders or aesthetic detox). Even more so than deep tissue work.

What is your advice for new massage therapists?

Take as many continuing education introductory courses as you can to learn more about the different specialties. Find one that you are passionate about and not only practice it, but educate others about it.

Learn practical applications of manual lymphatic drainage and contraindications when helping the oncology population at Carmen's session Oncology Rehab: Identifying and Assessing Edema vs. Lymphedema at the AMTA 2015 National Convention 

"AMTA is just the best professional organization there is and does the most for their people."

Karen T., AMTA member since 2002