My friend Claire posted a comment and it makes sense to reply to it here.
"Dumb question--would holding your arm up in the air help in the same way the compression sleeve does? Obviously you can't do that all the time, but maybe when you're sitting down & reading or whatever the arm could be propped up, then it would at least be unwrapped & available for use every so often.
(I really don't know how this drainage system works.)"
I just have to say that there are no dumb comments or questions, and I'm glad Claire asked.
Unfortunately, holding my arm up in the air wouldn't make any difference. Lymphedema is blockage of the lymphatic flow, resulting in swelling (edema) of the affected area. The lymph system parallels the blood vessels but has not been as well studied, so everyday people don't know as much about it (neither do the doctors or I wouldn't be stuck with it).
The goal of the massage (MLD or manual lymphatic drainage) is to move the cached lymph fluid from the affected area and to encourage the other lymph nodes to pick it up and recirculate it. First you stimulate the other parts of the body, to raise the bar, so to speak, of the rest of the lymph nodes. That means gentle massage around the neck, at the hip, under the arms, THEN across the chest and back and down the affected side, LAST up the affected arm.
Hope this helps!