Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Ross Devereux White MAEd MFHT
is the owner of Mindful Touch Massage and a qualified and experienced therapist. Here he describes the technique of MLD, how it works and it's profound benifits.
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Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a profoundly effective and relaxing treatment utilizing a wonderfully light touch. It has been described as
“One of the best kept secrets on the health and beauty scene” (Halliday, 2019).
MLD uses specially developed movements of the skin to stimulate the essential lymphatic and immune systems. These aid removal of toxic waste products in a natural way.
Blocked lymph is called lymphoedema and will leave you feeling lethargic, heavy and in general discomfort.
MLD was developed in the 1930’s by Dr. Emil Vodder and has gained respect worldwide as a component in the treatment and control of lymphoedema and other autoimmune syndromes.
How it works
The massage is applied gently stretching the walls of the lymph vessels in their natural direction. This frees obstructions, allowing the lymph to flow. This increased lymphatic flow transports waste, generally detoxifies and reduces swelling.
The direction, pressure and order used during this massage has been carefully researched by health professionals. Cycles of five palpations with one second rests between encourages movement and absorption of lymph in the beneficial direction. This creates a “suction effect”, moving accumulated fluid from areas of insufficient lymphatic drainage, back into the circulatory system.
MLD is a complicated massage to learn and its effectiveness relies on thorough training, so please check your therapist is properly qualified.
There are some profoundly beneficial physiological effects of MLD including:
Stimulating lymph movement
Reinvigoration of your immune system
Stimulating excretion of toxins and waste products
Stimulating collagen production and skin elasticity
Reduction of cellulite
Reduction of fluid retention
Promotion of wound healing
These benefits, alongside profound relaxation and lightening of your mood, makes MLD an excellent treatment for a plethora of common conditions including :
Tiredness and feeling “run down”: colds, spots and lethargy.
Fluid congestion: swollen ankles, tired puffy eyes and swollen legs.
Chronic conditions: sinusitis, migraines, lymphoedema and others.
Digestive problems: excessive weight, anorexia and stress eating.
Cosmetic conditions: scars, burns and stretch marks.
Immune system disorders: chronic fatigue syndrome and IBS.
Unique approach of MLD
Compared to traditional massage, the pressure applied with MLD is much gentler. The goal is to massage the lymphatic structures located just below your skin. The underlying muscle in not engaged in MLD and if you require deep muscle massage please check out.
Draping and areas massaged
Lymph vessels and nodes are widely situated across our bodies with all major lymph nodes being included in this massage.
In some areas, notably around your groin, massage is performed through the drapes covering you. So rest assured you will be modestly draped throughout your massage, if you feel uncomfortable having certain areas of your body touched we can adapt your treatment.
Standard draping is used for this massage, with the exception being of your chest where access to the sternum is required.
No oils or powders are used so it's completely safe even for those with sensitive skin. When you come for your appointment dress comfortably with loose fitting clothes.
Fibromyalgia and Manual Lymphatic Drainage
The very gentle nature of MLD makes it an idea substitute for conventional massage, for people suffering from painful conditions like fibromyalgia.
Indeed in the study “Comparison of [MLD] and connective tissue massage in women with fibromyalgia . . .” researchers found MLD to help pain relief, stiffness, sleep and general health status.(Ekici et al, 2009)
MLD was found to be the most effective and least painful type of massage for those suffering with fibromyalgia whilst still offering the benefits of relaxation, physical touch and feelings of wellbeing that massage brings.
If you have severe fibromyalgia I suggest initially booking a shorter session.
How will I feel after my massage
Clients who received MLD report feeling profoundly relaxed after their session. The slow rhythmic movements used are meditative and predictable. These make MLD particularly relaxing. There are usually no side effects to MLD and its perfectly safe to eat before and after.
This massage has been specifically designed to move congested lymph containing toxins into your circulation ready for excretion through urination. For this reason you may initially feel a little hung-over and need to urinate more often than normal as the re-energised lymphatic system starts to detox your body.
Take the time to relax after your treatment. Drink a little water and take advantage of the improved sleep you will experience. When I last received this massage I felt tired and headachy that evening but amazing the next day and into the following weeks.
MLD can considerably improve your immune system. After one session you will notice a difference. However I would recommend booking three sessions and making MLD a regular part of your self care routine. I treat myself weekly because I know how beneficial it is.
Lengths of treatment and prices
Whole body 75 minutes £50
Neck, shoulders and upper torso 45 minutes £40
Legs, knees and ankles (including inguinal) 45 minutes £40
Anatomy and Physiology of the Lymphatic System
Surrounding our cells is a fluid called interstitial fluid. This fluid allows nutrients to enter the cell and waste products to leave. Interstitial fluid also supplies protective white blood cells “lymphocytes” and proteins to the cells. Pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and dead cell fragments are carried away through interstitial fluid. This fluid (lymph) then collects in channels just under the skin.
The lymph slowly moves towards collecting areas called lymph nodes where it’s filtered and protective white blood cells called lymphocytes are produced.
The movement of lymph tends to be slow and unpredictable, sometimes getting stuck, especially where fighting gravity. Movement is encouraged in the right direction partially by contractions of the lymph vessels themselves but importantly by movement of the skeletal muscle and skin elasticity. Aiding this movement of lymph in the correct direction is where MLD can be so helpful.
Eventually, the lymph vessels empty into collecting ducts situated at the base of your neck. At this point lymph drains into one of the two subclavian veins near the collarbone. From here the lymph enters the blood circulatory system and is filtered with waste being excreted by the kidneys.
Cross, Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage Course, 2019, www.gatewayworkshops.co.uk [accessed Feb 2019].
Ekici et al, Comparison of manual lymph drainage therapy and connective tissue massage in women with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial., 2009, J Manipulative Physiol Therapy, 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov [accessed Feb 2019].
Foster, 7 Simple Ways To Boost Your Collagen, 2016, www.westlakedermatology.com, [accessed Feb 2019].
Halliday, What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage and how can it help?, 2019, www.physiopod.co.uk, [accessed Feb 2019].
MLD.UK, Detox - a different way to detox,2010, www.mlduk.org.uk [accessed Feb 2019].
Therapy Directory, Manual Lymphatic Drainage For Natural Body Detox, 2013,www.therapy-directory.org.uk [accessed Feb 2019].
Wikipedia, Lymphatic system, 2019, en.wikipedia.org [accessed Feb 2019].
Zuther, The Role of Manual Lymphatic Drainage in Fibromyalgia, 2012, http://www.lymphedemablog.com [accessed Feb 2019].