Updated: Jun 4, 2019
What is Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)?
You may have heard of it recently, but have you ever experienced it? Manual lymphatic drainage, or MLD, is a type of massage that allows a lymph to drain naturally. You want this drainage to flow out of the limb and into an area of the body that drains normally.
Manual Lymph Drainage History (MLD)
This highly effective technique was developed by a Danish doctor, Emil Vodder, in the 1930’s. At first, his intuitive style of massage was motivated by an attempt to soothe the swollen lymph nodes of patients suffering with winter flu. When this gentle care brought such good results, Dr Vodder launched a 4-year research project and refined his methods to what has now become known as Dr. Vodder Manual Lymph Drainage or MLD. Among his first students, were Gunther and Hildegard Wittlinger, who preserved the Vodder legacy by opening the Dr. Vodder clinic and school in Walchsee, Austria.
10 examples of why and when to take charge of your health using this technique:
1. You choose holistic practices to maintain optimum health.
Every cell in the body needs to take in nutrients and give off waste. The lymphatic system has the essential job of removing waste, so each cell has a clean environment to live in. Think of it like the garbage truck. Trash collection is an essential service, as anyone who had experienced a strike will tell you. If the trash piles up it’s hard to make room for new nutrients to get to the cells. Feeling a little sluggish or congested? Get an MLD and you will likely feel relief and renewal.
2. You understand the value of periodic cleansing in a holistic regimen.
There is a direct connection between a clean cellular environment and healthy body functions. Lymph drainage massage can be used in combination with other components of a “detox” regimen, juice fast, or cleanse. Lymph drainage massage supports the waste removal process and can accelerate elimination. It can even be targeted to specific areas of the body that might be more prone to congestion or toxic buildup such as the sinuses or abdomen. It is very common for patients to visit the restroom more frequently immediately following a session. Having a series of colonics? Get set up with MLD preceding each colonic and increase the benefits!
3. You would like to bolster your immune system.
The lymphatic system plays a key role by being at the front line of defense for the individual cells. Life is full of challenges to our health. Some of those challenges are unwelcome microbes. If microbial intruders manage to get past the barriers of our skin and mucous membranes, it is the job of the lymphatic system to remove them, and make sure they are neutralized. When the lymphatic system is resilient and working well, challenges to our vitality can be well managed. Consider MLD as preventative care during flu season.
4. You are challenged by sinus congestion.
A lymph drainage treatment for the sinuses supports good drainage from the face and neck which is where approximately 20 of the body’s lymph nodes are located. Many people begin to feel draining during the session itself, and notice improvement within 24 hours. If you are vulnerable to sinus congestion, allergies, sore throats, coughs and colds, this soothing treatment is for you.
5. Your intestines are not a as efficient as they could be.
Lymphatic massage is an excellent way to gently encourage the bowels to keep things moving. Natural health experts will say that health starts in the stomach. Daily elimination is essential to general immunity, mental clarity, overall energy, good mood, and healthy circulation in the legs. If you need a little help getting going, MLD might just be your ticket to results.
6. You’ve had an aesthetic procedure and would like to maximize recovery.
After any surgical procedure, whether elective or medically necessary, the body must recover. Surgery is a trauma. In the recovery process the body needs to clear the debris of damaged cells and supply extra nutrients to the area that needs to heal. Supply of nutrients and repair materials must be accomplished by the blood, which then causes necessary swelling and inflammation. Just like traffic flow needs to be managed around an accident on the highway, blood flow needs to continue effectively in spite of a slow down with swelling. Lymph drainage acts like a good traffic cop, making sure the slow down is at a minimum and the business of healing can be efficient and speedy. Lymph drainage also helps to clear the damaged cells, which includes bruising. When you understand this connection, you will always seek lymph drainage in your recovery regimen, no matter what the injury.
7. You would like to reduce pain as you heal after orthopedic surgery.
As stated above, every surgery brings with it the side effects of potential swelling bruising and pain. Lymphatic massage speeds up recovery from swelling and bruising. It also sedates the pain signals with its very gentle rhythmic technique. A majority of patients report reduction in pain after their session. Connect that to today’s concerns with pain medication and you have a winning combination.
8. You have chronic pain for which Swedish massage is too uncomfortable.
Lymph drainage massage is extremely gentle. The touch moves the skin without pressing on muscles, yet, connective tissue often releases, and muscles can relax with the rhythmic motion of this technique. You might want to plan for nap time after a session! I always remind my patients at the end to their appointments to make sure they drive home first before taking that nap.
9. You would like assistance with managing legs that get heavy and swollen.
Many people as they age, have reduced circulation in their legs as a result of poorly functioning valves in their veins. Lymphatic massage is one strategic tool used in the management of this condition. Although the lymphatic system is not the cause of venous insufficiency, sessions with MLD are very useful for relief in the lower extremities. You therapist can assist with education about compression hose and therapeutic exercise, which are key to care of this condition as well.
10. You are vulnerable to edema from surgery/radiation involving lymph nodes.
When scar tissue develops around lymph nodes, it can create an obstruction in the day to day flow pattern and fluid volume moving in the lymphatic system. Chronic swelling or edema can result. Lymphedema, as this condition is called, can be unpleasant as clothing may not fit correctly. The injured limb may feel heavy and not function as easily.
Even more important to understand is that edema can be an immune risk. When there is lymphedema – edema caused by direct obstruction to lymph capillaries or nodes, one can understand it as analogous to a stagnant pond. Compared to a free-flowing stream, the fluid can be a breeding ground for unwelcome microorganisms. If you are at risk to this type of edema, I highly advise establishing a relationship with a lymphedema therapist to be your partner in wellness and prevention over the long term.
Your body is designed to function with health and vitality. Know there are always strategies to improve whatever condition you may face. Your body will always do the best it can with the resources it has. Now you have the option to choose the excellent resource of manual lymph drainage to help your body improve its overall health.
About the Writer:
This writer first learned of the lymphatic system and its importance to health, when attending training as a massage therapist at PGA National Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, FL in 1992. The instructor, Ann Bramham, explained the significance of MLD in relation to our spa treatments. I was excited to learn of the health significance of MLD in spa applications. When Ms. Bramham arranged for Hildegard Wittlinger to come to Florida and introduce us to the Vodder method, I was all in! As I gained experience and confidence, I approached a local hospital and was hired on to apply my skill in the medical domain of wound care. Today I am in private practice seeing patients with a wide range of needs.
Nicole Dyk. LMT nicoledyk.com