You may have heard of Manual Lymph Drainage, or MLD. But what is it exactly, and what is it for? How is it different from regular massage?

Our Lymphatic System

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is type of massage that targets the body’s lymphatic system, our body’s circulatory system for cleaning waste products from the blood.

Source: Blausen.com staff. "Blausen gallery 2014". Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762.

Source: Blausen.com staff. “Blausen gallery 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine. DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 20018762.

Our lymphatic system is a vital part of our immune system, similar in function to our liver.

This system is a body-wide network of lymph vessels, much like our veins and arteries, that transports waste from our cells and to our lymph nodes.

Our lymph nodes filter out everything harmful to our body- toxins, viruses, bacteria, and waste products- and return the clean fluid (called lymph) to the heart to be recirculated as clean blood.

Our lymphatic system and our cardiovascular system (heart, arteries, and veins) work hand in hand to provide nourishment, help fight diseases, and maintain homeostasis by transporting nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to the body’s cells and waste tissues from the cells.

When the Lymphatic System Gets Blocked

Sometimes our lymphatic system gets blocked and is no longer able to circulate waste out of a certain area because of damage to the lymph vessels. This damage can be caused by many things, including surgery, a birth defect, genetic disposition, cancer treatment, or a crush injury. Imagine what would happen to tissue when waste fluid is unable be drained from the area- there will be inflammation, stagnation, and a higher risk of infection. It can also cause the body to form scar tissue in the area.

MLD: Promoting Lymph Circulation

Manual Lymph Drainage is a technique for treating these blockages in the lymphatic system. MLD is much gentler than regular massage. Instead of massaging muscles, MLD uses stretching and manipulating techniques on the skin to stimulate the flow and drainage of the lymphatic system.  This is done in a particular pattern that follows the lymphatic system’s direction of flow from the tissues to the lymph nodes and then on to the heart. It is a complex technique that involves specialized training to be done correctly. MLD can stimulate the lymphatic system to circulate up to 5 times its normal rate! For this reason, MLD is usually not recommended if you have a major heart condition, because the increased circulation of fluid through the heart may cause it too much stress.

What Can MLD Treat?

MLD is used to treat many inflammatory and immune conditions. MLD is commonly used to treat lymphedema, a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. The condition can be inherited or can be caused by a birth defect, though it is frequently caused by cancer treatments and parasitic infections.

In injuries like acute sports injuries, crush injuries or pre and post surgery, MLD can effectively treat inflammation so that there is a quicker and more complete recovery and less chance of scar tissue forming.  MLD can also treat burns, migraines, acne, and sinusitis with excellent results.

Interested in MLD Massage?

MLD is offered at OAC by Leigh Austin, RMT. Leigh is trained in Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) and Combined Decongestive Therapy with the prestigious Dr. Vodder School. Click here to learn more about Leigh, her office hours and rates.

Contact our office for more information!