Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Lymphatic Drainage, or MLD, redirects lymph flow and helps with various conditions. Unlike traditional massage, it's a light-pressure technique. MLD treats edema and lymphedema, the latter requiring specialized therapy. The Vodder Technique, like gold standard treatment, is practiced at Michigan Massage and Wellness. MLD aids post-surgery, allergies, detox, and more.

What is Lymphatic Drainage?

Lymphatic Drainage and The Lymphatic System

There is a superficial and deep lymphatic system, and the body’s fascia separates them. However, most MLD work is done superficially, which translates to a very light-pressure treatment. The average person has approximately 600 to 700 lymph nodes and several lymphatic trunks. Depending on the reason for treatment, the session may be focused on just one or two, or several. They are as follows:

  • Jugular trunks: drain the neck.
  • Subclavian trunks: drain the upper limbs.
  • Bronchomediastinal trunks: drain the chest.
  • Intercostal trunks: drain the chest wall.
  • Lumbar trunks.
  • Intestinal trunk: drains the gut.

Edema Vs. Lymphedema

Edema is the body’s response to inflammation or injury, a buildup of fluid being released into the local tissues. Edema is mostly water and is generally soft and squishy.

Lymphedema is a condition most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes, often due to cancer treatment or infection. Swelling occurs when lymphatic or protein-rich fluid is unable to drain properly. While it generally may occur in the extremities, it can occur anywhere in the body.

Lymphedema differs from edema due to protein. While edema is just water accumulating under the skin, the protein is too heavy and gets stuck due to a poorly functioning lymphatic system. Treatment for lymphedema requires your therapist to have specialized, extensive training. While MLD may help, lymphedema treatment may include compression bandages, wrapping, etc., and should only be performed by a licensed CDT (Complete Decongestive Therapist).

Manual Lymphatic Drainage Benefits

While MLD is often referred to as a massage, it is not in the traditional sense. At Michigan Massage and Wellness, our staff has trained in the Vodder Technique, considered one of the methods that to be the ‘gold standard’ for treatment.

The goal of MLD is to re-route the lymphatic flow around blocked areas into more centrally located, healthy lymph vessels, which then drain into the venous system. By performing these movements and using light directional pressure by gently and purposefully stretching the skin to help to move the lymphatic fluid in the appropriate direction.

MLD is beneficial for virtually anyone, but some common treatments include:

Contraindications and Precautions

As with any treatment, there are some contraindications and precautions to be aware of before scheduling your MLD session. This includes:

  • Congestive heart or renal failure (if you have had active failure, you should not be treated with MLD for a minimum of 2 months, and a doctor’s clearance will be required).
  • Blood clots. A blood clot will cause swelling, but an active blood clot can cause problems, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If you have warmth and tenderness over a vein, pain, swelling, or skin redness, those are all symptoms of DVT, and you should seek medical attention immediately.
  • Infection. Any active infection in an area that will be treated is a contraindication

How Often Should MLD be Performed?

If you have MLD in conjunction with surgery, most surgeons recommend MLD 2-3 times/week for the first 4-6 weeks after surgery and then 1-2 times/week after. If you are having a session before surgery, it is recommended to come in 3-5 days before surgery to help prepare the body, and it may also aid the body in recovering more quickly. If you are coming in for general wellness, consider weekly, biweekly or monthly sessions.

In conclusion, MLD is a hugely beneficial treatment that will benefit almost anyone who may feel their body is a little sluggish, want to enhance their results from surgery, or want some relief that they haven’t gotten otherwise.

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