Manual lymphatic drainage is a very gentle type of treatment technique that engages the lymphatic system. It is an advanced type of manual therapy (or medical massage), but it is quite different than classic massage. MLD is most notorious for reducing swelling caused by fluid build-up after cancer treatment. MLD can reduce edema (swelling) following an injury; it can also reduce fluid retention due to inflammation or a disease process. It is used to decrease pain, restore movement, and allow for optimal tissue healing. MLD drains excess fluid from the tissues, while also having a detoxifying effect. Although It is most often used to address medical conditions, it can benefit a healthy person as well.
The Lymphatic system is our recycling center and plays an integral role in the immune functions of the body. It is our first line of defense against infection and keeps our body’s waste products and fluids in balance. When this system becomes blocked, our fluid thickens and swelling in the blocked area occurs. The swelling is often internal and cannot be seen or felt. The lymphatic system’s network of tissues and organs can be affectively stimulated by utilizing the specific techniques of MLD. When applied properly it will increase the lymphatic flow, stimulating a malfunctioning or fatigued system and clearing up blockages in areas that have are stagnant. It can either be used on specific areas or there can be a total body-balancing approach. By innervating specific areas with MLD, the entire body can be positively affected, and imaging studies have shown that we can increase the speed of flow by about tenfold.
MLD improves health-related quality of life symptoms. In October of 2017, the first MRI of the brain showing the lymphatic channels was obtained. It indicated that the lymphatic vessels of the brain also drain into the same area as the rest of the body. So, when you innervate the other areas, are we also draining the brain? Good chance!
There are different types of approaches to MLD; they include: Vodder, Földi, Casley-Smith, to name a few. But, they are quite similar and they all look to attain the same goal.
MLD is used to treat a variety of conditions, such as: lymphedema, burns, fluid retention, lymph node removal, allergies, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic mastitis, headaches and is a commonly requested therapy following liposuction.
It is also believed to aid in the healing of fractures, torn ligaments and relieves fluid congestion, swollen ankles, puffy eyes, headaches and swollen legs during pregnancy. Chronic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, sinusitis and fibromyalgia may also improve after receiving MLD. Chronic and acute pain sufferers have found MLD very helpful as well.
MLD is implemented by specially trained therapists, known as a Certified Lymphatic Therapist (CLT). A practitioner must be certified, and the course is open for Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Licensed/Registered Massage Therapists and other Licensed Healthcare Professionals. At a minimum, 135 class hours are required for certification.