How does Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) work?

5 key benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage

  • Deeply relaxing
  • Decongestive (removes lymphoedema)
  • Pain Relieving
  • Improves wound healing and scarring
  • Detoxifying

MLD is a highly specialised Wellington massage therapy that uses gentle, rhythmical and very precise hand movements. The massage strokes involve immediate skin contact (no oil) to influence the direction and speed of lymphatic flow and re-directing it if necessary. MLD will drain the connective tissue without first bringing an extra load to the area in the form of circulation (as happens during, for example, Swedish or Sports Massage). It will not cause pain or reddening of the skin.

Developed by Emil and Estrid Vodder, MLD has grown to be the most well-known manual massage therapy technique to assist lymph flow and aid in drainage of soft tissue. According to Dr Vodder each MLD treatment commences at the neck to clear the area and ‘make space’ for lymph to be brought there. The next parts of the sequence will depend entirely on why MLD is being performed and the particular needs of the individual. However, lymph follows pre-determined pathways on its journey to the thoracic ducts (situated under the collarbone) and is continuous – if space is made at the top of the chain, fluid from lower down can ‘move up’. The lymphatic system does not have its own pump (unlike the circulation which has the heart) and relies on movement of muscles in the surrounding area to activate the collection of lymph from surrounding tissues.

The aim of our Wellington massage MLD therapists is to restore equilibrium in the tissues and ensure that ‘that which enters equals that which departs’. If the body is not in this state of equilibrium, and there is too much fluid in the tissues, they become soft and ‘boggy’ to the touch. If excess fluid is present it can interfere with cell nutrition – oxygen and nutrients will take longer to pass through the tissues and get from the bloodstream to the cells through the interstitial fluid. This will also mean that waste products from cell metabolism will take longer to move from cells to the transport system, which will remove them from the body.

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.

Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage right for me?

Lymphatic system

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is an important part in the treatment of primary and secondary lymphoedema, and lipoedema. To read more about lymphoedema and its stages click here.

If you are unsure whether or not MLD is for you, please check with your General Practitioner or Medical Specialist.

Daniela is a certified MLD Therapist practicing the Dr Vodder Method. She also offers Combined Decongestive Therapy (CDT) where needed.

MLD can be used for treating many conditions such as:

  • stress
  • bruising and soft tissue swelling
  • scar tissue
  • traumatic oedema (post-surgery, sprains, strains, fractures, after cosmetic surgery)
  • arthritic conditions
  • rosacea and other skin conditions
  • migraines
  • sinus
  • pregnancy oedema
  • frozen shoulder
  • elbow problems (i.e. tennis elbow)

Our Specialists

Daniela Graham

Daniela Graham

Dip. Th. Mass (UK), Dip. Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Cert. Pregnancy Massage