Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage uses gentle techniques that assist the lymphatic system in maintaining the body’s fluid balance, blood circulation, and immune mechanisms.

Your lymphatic system has a network of vessels and nodes which contains lymph (a mixture of water, proteins, immune system components, waste products, and other remnants of cell metabolism).

Your lymph nodes are found throughout the body, with especially large groups of them in the neck, armpits, and groin.

These major collections of lymph nodes ensure that the lymph passes through as many nodes as possible, which filter out debris, before it returns to the circulatory system.

Swelling can be due to the accumulation of fluids in your tissues as the lymphatic system is not working well, this can especially happen with lymphedema, and with radiation therapy or cancer-related surgery where lymph nodes have either been damaged or removed.

Why is MLD important to have done?

Both Lymphedema and edema are conditions where MLD can help with the accumulation of extra fluid to the tissues and decrease the swelling and especially in Lymphedema, the possibility of infection.

Lymphedema
Is where there is an abnormal accumulation of fluid due to lymphatic vessels or nodes are damaged or removed. The body is not able to clear this area by itself and both nutrients and waste exchange becomes much more sluggish in these areas resulting in:

  • poor wound healing
  • increased risk of infection to cellulitis* due to bacteria unable to be removed. This is life threatening please seek medical advice immediately.

Edema
Is an imbalance of body fluids, but the lymphatic vessels and nodes are intact. You may experience edema (swelling):

  • after a sprained ankle (or any injury which causes inflammation)
  • in your third trimester of pregnancy
  • after sitting or standing for long periods of time
  • if you eat more salty foods or drinks
  • if you take medications such as corticosteroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, hormone replacement therapy.

Edema in certain places can be signs of serious medical condition such as swelling in the lower extremities can signify cardiovascular disease, a swollen abdomen (ascites) can mean liver disease, and edema over a larger area could signify kidney disease.

MLD can help improve your quality of life, sleep, breathing and your pain.

The focus of our oncology trained and neuromuscular therapists is to reduce the swelling. We use specialised techniques consisting of a series of gliding, compressing, stretching, and cupping motions over the body. The light rhythmic movements, applied without massage oil, stimulate your lymphatic system without compressing the vessels – allowing lymph to move easily through the tissues and lymph nodes.

MLD follows a specific sequence over the body so lymph isn’t trapped anywhere, making sure every area is treated with care.

Who can benefit from MLD?

Lymphatic drainage massage is commonly used for issues such as

  • Swelling or Oedema
  • Lymphedema – post radiation therapy or cancer-related surgery
  • Fibromyalgia

It can also benefit you if you are are experiencing the following:​

  • skin disorders
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • stress
  • digestive problems
  • arthritis
  • migraine episodes

Lymphatic massage is not advised if you have congestive heart failure, blood clots, kidney problems, infections, or circulation problems.

If you do have any medical conditions, please speak to your doctor before trying a lymphatic massage.

* Cellulitis is local swelling, redness, warmth, abscess forming, and tender skin. Area of redness may expand over time and streaks may appear. Fever or tiredness/fatigue may develop. If you notice these signs please seek medical treatment immediately. Left untreated, cellulitis may spread rapidly and become life threatening.

I have an intact lymphatic system, what can I do to help myself between sessions?

Always seek advice from your medical health professional to see if any of these self-help ideas are of benefit for you.

Diet – Restrict your salt intake

Medications – See your GP to discuss whether diuretics are suitable. Diuretics (salt pills) may help to reduce fluid volume (just be mindful you will be visiting the toilet often in the first few days of taking this medication due to the removal of the excess fluid).

Lifestyle – Avoid prolonged standing especially if you have swelling in your legs and feet, it is better to move with exercise such as walking so that your leg and breathing muscles can help pump the fluid out of the body. Elevate your feet above the heart to help promote drainage using gravity, wear compressive bandages or stockings, and do gentle joint mobility exercises such as circular movements.