Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)


What is the Lymphatic System?

The Lymphatic system, is a part of the circulatory system and immune system. It is essentially the waste system of the human body. As the body’s organs and vessels discard waste (from food, environmental exposure and pathogenic threats) the Lymphatic system picks this up and moves it out of the body and into the organs which aid in waste removal (the liver, kidneys). It is also responsible for the absorption of fatty acids and nutrients to help maintain adequate function of the body.

Though part of the circulatory system it has differing functions. Instead of circulating blood it transfers a liquid known as lymph. This lymph fluid helps return proteins to the bloody stream and moving through bacteria to be destroyed.

When it comes to the immune system the body has three lines of defence which are broken into two categories;shutterstock_1787444036-495x400 What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

Innate (Nonspecific) Defence Mechanism

First Line of Defence

  • Skin
  • Mucous membranes
  • Secretions of the skin and mucous membranes

Second Line of defence

  • Phagocytic cells
  • Antimicrobial proteins
  • The inflammatory response

Adaptive (Specific) Defence Mechanism

Third Line of Defence

  • Lymphocytes
  • Antibodies
  • Macrophages

How does massage help the Lymphatic System?

Massage aids movement of lymph through the body as the lymphatic system alone does not ‘pump’ to circulate, it is a one-way-system which is reliant on the movement of other bodily functions – the circulatory system and involuntary muscle contractions throughout the body.

As the Lymphatic system is one way, it is important to direct the movement of lymph in the direction of the lymph nodes and heart… Upward. When doing so we work down the limb or trunk, from top to bottom – moving fluid in an upward motion clearing through as we move.

What is Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)?

MLD is light, skin stretching massage technique developed by Dr Emil and Estrid Vodder in Paris in 1936. This massage aids in the movement of lymphatic fluid through the body. It is especially helpful in moving fluid out of a swollen limb as a result of lymphedema, acute injury, arthritis, surgery or illness.  MLD helps the lymph collectors adequately move protein and fluid through the system, restoring its function and ability.

At the start of the session you will be in a lying position beginning with deep diaphragmatic breathing. This helps activate the deep abdominal lymph pathways it also helps to relax the body and mind as well as increase fluid movement into the heart. Next we will move on to a opening sequence which involves a soft gentle massage around the clavicle and up the neck along the base of the skull and along the jaw. This slow, gentle sequence is performed 3-5 times and can be deeply soothing. MLD is first directed at unaffected body parts to clear them of residual fluid so the affected areas can be drained and fluid moved through. This is know as “decongestion”.

As we move through the body in a proximal (close to the body) to distal (away from the body) manner we will open areas of lymph nodes as we treat, using slow, rhythmical gentle pressure. MLD can be administered as a stand-alone treatment or as a part of a remedial massage treatment.

Not everyone is suited to MLD though and there are contraindications which should be adhered to. MLD should only be administered by a therapist who is certified in MLD.

Absolute contraindications (No MLD) include

  • Cardiac Insufficiency
  • Untreated congestive heart failure (Cardiac Oedema)
  • Acute inflammation caused by bacterial infections, fungi or viruses. MLD could potentially spread these germs through the body increasing the risk of sepsis (blood poisoning)
  • Acute renal failure
  • Acute Deep Vein Thrombosis

After your treatment of MLD you will be sent home with information on how to administer your own self MLD to keep the MLD benefits going.

If your condition is severe it would be recommended that you seek advice from a trained physiotherapist who is able to provide exercises and compression to aid in your recovery.

If you are interested in MLD or would like to experience it for yourself, contact us to find out more. Or you can book you appointment online TODAY!


Physio-pedia Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Lymph Care USA