Manual Lymphatic Drainage


What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

Manual lymphatic drainage is a massage therapy technique that uses very gentle touch to help move lymphatic fluid back into the cardiovascular system.  This can help to reduce swelling throughout the body and is particularly useful for clients suffering from lymphedema.  This technique was originally developed by Dr. Emil Vodder and has been found to be effective at reducing swelling through a number of scientific studies.

What is Combined Decongestive Therapy?

Combined decongestive therapy, as taught by Dr. Vodder, includes manual lymph drainage, lymph bandaging and exercises used to decrease swelling and relieve the symptoms of lymphedema.

What does the lymphatic system do?

The lymphatic system is basically our plumbing system.  Blood is pumped by the heart to bring oxygen to other parts of the body via arteries.   At the smallest level (cellular) the system then switches to bringing blood back to the heart via veins.  At the point where the system changes from arteries to veins the vessels are quite "leaky" and lots of water and other things moves out of the blood vessels into the surrounding tissues.   The lymphatic system then picks up this leaked out fluid.   Since the lymphatic system does not have pump (like the heart) it makes its way back to the heart through a number of different ways.

Whew - that was pretty technical!

What is lymphedema?

In normal, healthy bodies all the fluid that gets lost in the tissues is picked up by the lymphatic system and returned to the cardiovascular system.  However, when the lymphatic system gets damaged - through a sprained ankle, surgery, radiation or via other injuries we get swelling.  Swelling is an accumulation of water (and other things) in the tissues because the lymphatic system cannot process all the fluid due to an injury.

What are other reasons to use manual lymphatic drainage besides lymphedema?

There are lots of reasons to get an MLD treatment besides lymphedema!   Here's a few conditions where MLD is indicated:

  • Migrane headaches
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Sprains (i.e. ankle, wrist)
  • Pre and post many types of surgery to aid in healing
  • For general tissue health and relaxation
  • To aid in the healing of scar tissue

Are there types of swelling that can't be treated with MLD?

There are several conditions that involve swelling that cannot be treated with MLD.

  • Liver disease
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Malnutrition

Additionally, manual lymphatic drainage will not help with weight loss or to reduce cellulitis.

What can I expect from a treatment with Jennifer?

Jennifer will meet with you and assess your needs for massage therapy and/or MLD treatment.   If MLD is indicated then you can expect a long, gentle treatment - for at least 30 minutes.    Afterwards, Jennifer will recommend homecare and assess if bandaging is necessary in cases of lymphedema.   For clients seeking MLD who do not have lymphedema you may be able to have MLD within a larger massage therapy treatment.