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What is manual lymphatic drainage and should you try it?

Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage Right for You?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is most commonly associated with individuals living with lymphedema but is becoming a staple in many skincare and wellness routines among both men and women. While its medicinal roots are not to be overlooked, Lymphatic Drainage has become a popular technique with massage enthusiasts due to its many benefits.


What is Lymph and why is it important?

Lymph is a watery, plasma like fluid circulating throughout our bodies in a network of vessels, nodes and organs. The lymphatic system contains many white blood cells and plays a big role in your immune system as it works to rid the body of bacteria and infection.

Lymph capillaries have one-way permeability. This means viruses and bacteria may enter, but they cannot exit. Much like veins, the lymphatics function to carry fluid towards the heart. The lymphatic pump is most active during exercise and very sluggish when the body is at rest. Lymphatic tissue protects the body from disease, germs and other foreign invaders, and is found in the lymph nodes, spleen, intestines, appendix, thymus gland and tonsils. It is responsible for the return of fluid and proteins to the bloodstream which helps to clear the body of congestion and inflammation.

Lymphedema vs. Edema

Edema, or swelling, occurs whenever the lymphatics are obstructed and is the body’s natural response to an injury. Edema is often a result of excess tissue fluid that has not returned to the circulatory system. As the injury heals, the fluid leaves and swelling is reduced.

Lymphedema is swelling that usually occurs in one of your arms, legs or both. It is often the result of severe damage or complete removal of your lymph nodes during cancer treatment. Lymphedema is present when the lymphatic system is damaged beyond repair and the lymphatic fluid in a given area (arm or leg) exceeds the amount the lymphatic transport system can remove.

How to treat Lymph problems and Edema

There is a very specific type of light massage that is used to increase the flow of this crucial fluid to help reduce swelling, edema and inflammation. It is called Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and it has a calming effect on the body. MLD attempts to eliminate waste products from tissues and to improve the metabolic function of the body’s tissues. Congestive conditions (not including Cardiac) can also benefit from this technique.

You should not receive MLD if you have a fever, a malignant tumor or blood clots. With those exceptions, MLD is a great massage option for people looking to boost their immune system or help reduce swelling. Studies show that patients receiving MLD after surgery had less bruising, less scar tissue and less pain than patients who did not, making it especially effective post-operation.

Can I get a Manual Lymphatic Drainage massage without Edema or Lymphedema?

You may be wondering if MLD is right for you. Today, both men and women are adding lymphatic drainage massages into their skincare and wellness routines given its effectiveness for pain relief, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, acne and rosacea, cellulite, allergies and headaches. It has also become a popular spa treatment for detoxification, general stress relief and some facial treatments.

How do I get a lymphatic drainage massage?

Peg Catlett, RN-LMTWhile all our therapists can incorporate some lymphatic drainage techniques into your regular session, the Oasis Spa at Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center is fortunate to have a nationally certified MLD therapist on staff.

Peg Catlett is an RN and Licensed Massage Therapist and is happy to spend a few minutes consulting about whether this technique is appropriate for your specific situation. Give us a call at 502-753-7541, leave us a comment below or contact us here to schedule your appointment.