What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a technique (similar in style to Swedish massage) for reducing moderate to severe swelling. It is most commonly used for patients who are suffering lymphodema, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic edema to name a few.

MLD is a type of therapy that often incorporates other types of modalities you may be familiar with such as stretching, cupping, and gliding motions all designed to stimulate the lymphatic system and increase the flow of lymph through the tissues and lymph nodes, where the bodies waist and debris are filtered through.

How does MLD work?

MLD aims to move fluid from the affected area into a place where the lymphatic system is working normally. To do this, your MLD Specialist will begin with skin movements to clear the area that they want the fluid to drain into. 

It might seem strange to have this done on an area of the body that is not affected; however, to move the excess fluid your MLD needs to prepare the functioning lymph nodes to receive the excess fluid. In other words, the fluid needs somewhere to drain when the therapist transitions to the affected area(s).

Is it painful?

Typically MLD is a very gentle, rhythmic type of massage similar to that of Swedish and relaxation massage. However, severely swollen nodes can be tender to even the lightest of touch. At any time you are experiencing pain and or discomfort please communicate this with your MLD specialist.

What can you expect from MLD at Stress Knot

Depending on your need and where you're at in managing your swelling your therapist might bandage the affected area. They use a specialized bandaging technique called multi-layered lymphoedema bandaging (MLLB). If it is not possible or necessary to use bandages, you usually wear a compression garment. (NOTE wrapping and bandaging need to be cleared by your primary care provider.) 

The bandaging helps manage and reduce the swelling in the affected area (s). If deemed safe and necessary your MLD specialist will teach you how to wrap/bandage the affected in between sessions. As well as provided detailed instructions on care, frequency, and duration of wearing the bandages as well as how to provide self-MLD in between your treatment sessions. 

At Stress Knot your MLD specialist will regularly check how well your treatment is and how it's working. The first thing they'll ask is if you your noticing any reduction in the swelling and how you are feeling about the progress. You and your MLD provider must have open communication on your treatment.

When MLD isn't safe

Despite the gentleness of MLD, there are some situations when you shouldn't receive MLD or SLD. You might not be able to have MLD if you have any of the following:

  • an infection or inflammation in the swollen area
  • a blood clot
  • heart problems
  • cancer in the area

If you're unsure always talk to your specialist about your health condition and they'll let you whether you can or can’t receive a manual.

Despite your health condition Stress Knot always requires clearance from your medical provider as well as full disclosure of your health condition from your provider before beginning any MLD treatments.