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Manual Lymphatic Drainage: When to consider it


In my previous post: Massage vs Inflammation I discussed how massage therapy can have a great influence in our lymphatic system and help decrease inflammation and swelling. Not to mention, how it can be a boost to our immune system.


But more specifically, I'd like to introduce Manual Lymphatic Drainage. I will describe the process, and why and when you should consider MLD.


To begin with, MLD is NOT a massage. It's a very specific form of manual therapy designed to stimulate the lymphatic system. Here are some of it's goals:

1) Stimulate the lymphatic system via an increase of lymph circulation.


2) Expediting the the removal of biochemical wastes from the body.


3) Enhancing body fluid dynamics, thereby facilitating the reduction of edema (swelling).


4) Induce relaxation by decreasing sympathetic nervous system responses while increasing parasympathetic nervous tone, therefore reducing stress responses in the mind and body.


MLD is mostly prescribed and utilized for the treatment of illness and the reduction of swelling. The physiological and biomechanical effects of MLD treatments on the lymphatic system in treating ill or injured people have long been of interest to osteopathic health, complementary, and alternative medicine practitioners.



MLD techniques include soft, directional strokes towards the heart.

This is why I encourage my clients to come in for a massage, but more specifically an MLD session when they are feeling like they are getting sick, or are at the end of a cold or flu. An MLD session will accelerate the healing process and help flush any waste or residual products out. An MLD session will also help with the achiness and stiffness that often occurs when we get ill. So next time you get sick, don't cancel your session (unless you're completely feeling miserable of course), and ask your massage therapist if he or she performs Manual Lymphatic Drainage. If you're sick and don't have a session on the books, then schedule one. You will NOT regret it!


What to expect in an MLD session?


Many practitioners have their own methods, but not much different due to the physiology of the lymphatic system. MLD targets the lymph nodes through out the body and the superficial lymph vessels through the body. Since the location of the nodes/vessels are all the same, and the direction of flow, the strokes are very specific.


My MLD sessions are about 45 minutes. I normally begin sessions with deep diaphragmatic breathing techniques, alongside light manual pumping of the chest, abdomen, and shoulder/arm pit regions. Since the majority of lymph nodes are within the neck, chest, and abdominal cavities they highly rely on deep breathing to get lymph fluid to mobilize back into the cardiovascular system. So we want to first clear that area in order to make room for more fluid. Once we are done with breathing I will proceed with very gentle strokes on the neck, and throughout the body. Like I said earlier, MLD isn't considered a massage, because the strokes are very light. The truth is, most people actually find it to be a very relaxing session. So expect to feel very relaxed!



I will end the session with more deep breathing, and instruct my client on some simple techniques to preform at home to continue the therapeutic effects as they recover. Depending on how sick an individual is, a follow up session will be recommended.


So next time you're not feeling well, you should consider an MLD session!


Other reasons to consider MLD:

*sinus infections, Injury, post-surgery recovery, lymph-edema, if you're heavily medicated (ex: chemo), swelling during pregnancy, and even sports recovery.


To learn more about the mechanisms of the lymphatic system and how massage therapy can improve the flow of lymph, please go here: https://www.bwdynamics.com/blog/massage-vs-inflammation





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