Manual Lymphatic Drainage

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage? 


The lymph system runs throughout your body. You have lymph nodes running from your head to your feet. 

Lymph is a fluid that flows through your lymph vessels to healthy lymph “nodes” (which filter and regulate fluid). Lymphatic fluid takes toxins and wastes with it to help clear your body. The lymphatic system is similar to your circulatory system, except that there isn’t a central organ that pumps lymph. To move through your body, it requires body movements and gravity. 

However, gravity and exercise sometimes aren’t enough to effectively move your lymph through your body. This can cause a range of problems, from sickness to lethargy. In this case, it helps to have a massage therapist experienced in manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) use gentle hand movements to get your lymph nodes draining and your lymph flowing again. MLD treatments can also encourage the natural drainage of lymph after a treatment.


What Does an MLD Treatment Do?

Using light and long strokes, an MLD treatment helps restore movement in the lymph system and ensure all your lymph nodes are draining properly. Regular treatments can be very beneficial for long-term health, and the treatment itself isn’t painful. 

Here are just a few reasons to book a treatment and try it for yourself:

  1.   Strengthened Immune System

One of the main benefits of the lymph system is the removal of harmful waste and toxins from the body. For this to occur, lymph has to be flowing smoothly. If you’ve been getting sick more often lately, stimulating your lymph system may help. Try an MLD massage to improve your immunity and feel better. 

  1.   More Energy 

Many people report feeling more energy after a manual lymphatic drainage treatment, which can last for a few hours to a few days. Many people choose to incorporate MLD into their weekly or monthly massages for this great boost of energy.

  1.   Better Sleep

MLD massages reduce pain and stress and promote healing, which makes it perfect for anyone who has been having trouble sleeping. 

  1.   Resolved Sinus Issues

MLD is highly decongestive. When lymph is not flowing properly, you may experience sinus or allergy issues. Draining the lymph nodes that work with the sinuses can help get everything flowing smoothly again and offer some well-deserved relief.

  1.   Lymphedema Prevention

When the normal flow of lymph is seriously interrupted (by medical treatment, infection, cancer treatments, surgeries, or health or medical conditions), you could end up with lymphedema, which causes protein rich swelling in one or more limbs. Compression therapy is typically used to prevent lymphedema, but lymphatic massage can also greatly help reduce swelling and prevent lymphedema from getting worse. Some studies also suggest MLD can also be preventative.

  1.   Reduction of Swelling in the Legs

Often, poor leg circulation is automatically chalked up to poor vein health. However, it could you the lymph nodes in your legs – and not just your veins – that are the culprit. If you’ve started to notice swelling, pain, or discomfort in your legs, see your MLD therapist for a specific MLD treatment that will help stimulate lymph movement in your legs. 

  1.   Healing After Surgery 

Lymph massages have been known to stimulate healing and regenerate tissue at a scar site after surgery. In addition, it can detoxify the body and reduce swelling – both issues which are usually experienced after surgery. Once you’ve been cleared by your doctor, book a massage with our qualified, MLD-trained therapists. 

The vessels of the lymphatic system progress through the body passing through clearing stations called lymph nodes or glands. We each have between 600 and 800 lymph nodes (around 200 alone are thought to be in the area of the head and neck). They are arranged in clusters and chains and while we know where they are situated, each person’s exact arrangement is unique. Lymph nodes filter the lymph fluid then re-join the circulatory system before going to the kidneys that filter and process the blood, and excrete the waste products as urine.

Contraindications happen when an increase in lymph flow would be detrimental. Contraindications can either be absolute or relative. The physician can override relative contraindications if he or she finds good reason, but the absolute contraindication cannot be overridden.

Absolute Contraindications:

  • Acute inflammation – caused by bacteria, viruses and poisons are contraindicated. Tissues will be red, hot, and painful with congestion accompanied by fever. Lymphatic drainage will push these substances into the lymph channels before the body has a chance to eliminate them. This way one can spread the toxic substances throughout the body. It is best to wait a few days until the condition is not acute and the body has had a chance to clean up the area.
  • Malignant tumors – unless directed by the oncologist.
  • Thrombosis – can lead to free floating blood clots in the circulatory system.
  • Major heart problems – if the heart is not fully functioning, edema can be lymphodynamic due to a lack of venous return. Pumping more fluid in the heart it may stress it more than the actual condition.

Relative Indications or Precautions:

  • Kidney problems – check with the physician before treating.
  • Bronchial asthma – this can stimulate the vagus nerve bringing on an attack.
  • Thyroid problems – no treatment around the throat.
  • Medications – fear of increasing the dosage by draining the interstitial spaces.
  • Chemotherapy – fear of increasing the dosage by draining the interstitial spaces.
  • First three months of pregnancy – fear of miscarriage.
  • Removed spleen – recommend shorter session first.
  • Menstruation – MLD can increase the flow.


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