Usually, when people hear about manual lymphatic drainage massage they think it’s only for individuals who have lymphedema. While its reputation as a form of medical massage therapy isn’t undeserved, lymphatic drainage has recently become a technique of choice among a variety of massage lovers due to its many benefits.
What is MLD?
First, let’s look at the lymphatic system and what it does to better understand how the massage works. The lymphatic system is the system of tissues, vessels, and organs that work in conjunction to maintain fluid levels in our body, support immune function, and keep blood circulating. The system carries lymph, a clear fluid that contains proteins, waste, fat cells, and metabolized cells through the body which is filtered through the lymph nodes. Waste is removed from the body as clean lymph circulates back through. When the lymphatic system isn’t moving lymph through the body properly, excess fluid in the body builds up, causing edema (swelling) and creating a puffy, uncomfortable look and feel. Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage was developed to treat lymphedema, a condition of accumulated fluid within the body that often develops after removing lymph nodes. As a trained massage therapist in lymphatic drainage, I manually massage the body in a way that encourages the lymph through the body, breaking up areas of swelling and reducing excess fluid in the body.
Why is MLD important?
The lymphatic system is a crucial part of your immune system. Through a network of hundreds of lymph nodes, it transports and drains fluid called lymph back into your bloodstream. It also removes bodily waste and carries white blood cells that help prevent infection.
It maintains fluid levels in our body tissues by removing all fluids that leak out of our blood vessels. When there’s any kind of obstruction in your lymphatic system, fluid can start to build up. This can cause swelling, unhealthy blockage and begin to affect your body's systems and wellness. That’s where lymphatic drainage comes in!
The lymphatic system is important for the optimal functioning of our general and specific immune responses.
Benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Your lymphatic system is key to healing, regenerating tissues, and removing waste and toxins from the body. When the body has experienced stress, such as fighting off illness, healing from an infection, or experiencing emotional stress, the lymphatic system can slow down. MLD Massage helps to rejuvenate and support the system in moving lymph through the body.
This can provide a variety of benefits, including:
More efficient healing from illness, injury, or surgery
Supports relaxation and relieves stress
Reduces scar formation by boosting healing responses
Removes excess water and metabolic waste from the tissues in the body
Reduces swelling and fluid retention
Improves skin quality and provides a more vibrant appearance
Today, many people incorporate lymphatic drainage techniques into their wellness routines because of its detoxification and circulatory benefits. Research from Europe, Australia, and North America has proven its efficacy as a stand-alone treatment and in combination with other therapies. If performed correctly with the correct pressure, direction and speed, this can greatly enhance recovery and facilitate drainage.
Consider lymphatic drainage to address any of these issues:
pain relief from swelling
decrease in joint inflammation (RA and other arthritides)
Developed in France, in 1932 by Emil and Estrid Vodder, lymphatic drainage has grown to be the most well known manual technique to assist lymph flow and aid in drainage of tissues. It is a specialized massage technique that gently assists the lymphatic system in maintaining the body’s fluid balance, blood circulation, and immune mechanisms. The system’s network of vessels and nodes contains lymph (which is a mixture of water, proteins, immune system components, waste products, and other remnants of cell metabolism). During a lymph drainage massage, a specially-trained massage therapist manipulates the skin in a specific manner, based on scientific, physiological principles that have proven to encourage lymph flow. This stimulates the lymphatic system without compressing the vessels and allows lymph to move easily through the tissues and lymph nodes.
It also has profound effects on systems in the body. Lymphatic drainage affects the nervous system, smooth muscles, and the sympathetic system, for example in blood and lymph vessels as well as intestinal motility. Through the pumping and stretching effect on the lymph vessels, this treatment stimulates the contraction of smooth muscles in lymph vessels, helping to move the lymph forward and drain the connective tissue. It can also help a client to recuperate from chronic illness by allowing their parasympathetic nervous system to predominate. Indirectly it may also affect the immune system.