Manual Lymphatic Drainage

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?


Manual Lymph drainage (MLD), is a technique developed in 1936 in Paris by Dr. Emil Vodder and his wife, Estrid for the treatment of Lymphatic diseases, especially lymphedema.

MLD is a light massage technique which stretches the skin and helps to move the lymphatic fluid out of the swollen area. It is very different from traditional massage, which works on the muscles. Instead, MLD concentrates on the lymph vessels to encourage the flow of lymphatic fluid. The therapist first treats the unaffected areas, allowing the fluid to move out of the affected area and decongest it. MLD also helps to open the lymph collectors, move the fluid into them and speeds up the flow of fluid through the lymphatic system.

A therapy session usually starts and ends with deep breathing exercises called diaphragmatic breathing to help open the deep lymphatic pathways. Deep breathing relaxes the patient and increases the movement of fluid toward the heart.

Applications of MLD Therapy

  • MLD stimulates the lymph nodes and increases the contractions of the lymphatic system so that fluid drains more efficiently.
  • MLD uses four main strokes: stationary circles, scoop technique, pump technique, and rotary technique.
  • MLD can be a preventative treatment to maintain the lymphatic system in good order
  • MLD is also a postoperative rehabilitation treatment.  Many surgical procedures result in fluid retention and localised swelling.  MLD drains the excess fluid and alleviates the swelling and discomfort.
  • MLD also increases blood flow in deep and superficial veins.
  • MLD may be used to treat conditions such as post-traumatic and post-surgical edema, and for palliative care.