Manual Lymphatic Drainage is good for:

  • Post-injury / operative healing
  • Water retention
  • Post-operative oedema
  • Sinusitis (when not acute)
  • Headaches (some people find it helps)
  • Hayfever (when not acute)
  • Digestion
  • Relaxation
  • Complexion on the face – can make skin look clearer and brighter
  • Potentially helps to clear lactic acid, so good for post-exercise recovery
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MLD helps the body to detox itself faster. What does this mean exactly? The lymphatic system is your body’s detox system, cleansing waste products that travel from the blood, through the various lymphatic vessels and into the lymph nodes (we have about 600 in our bodies). Lymph nodes are like mini recycling centres and also help to filter out antigens, which are tackled in addition by other lymph structures: the spleen, macrophages (a type of white blood cell) and dendritic cells (also connected to the immune system). Anything that can’t be recirculated is expelled in the urine or by sweating.

MLD stimulates the lymphatic system by means of specific techniques that speed up the flow of lymph to the lymph nodes (all around our bodies). Due to the way lymph is pumped around our bodies, the way to affect and improve this flow happens to be very gentle and rhythmical, making this a very relaxing treatment. Oil is not usually used, as the therapist works with the sebum in the skin instead. I am trained in the Vodder technique, which is internationally recognized and has been around since the 1930s. Scientific reports over the years have found some positive evidence for the effectiveness of this treatment:

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The main benefits of MLD are:
• Decongesting and detoxing – helping the body to clear toxins and waste products. It can be very effective at reducing swelling, e.g. post-operation / injury, and water retention. As with massage, it can help the digestive system, and it can be good for the skin (e.g. it can be good for people with acne / rosacea or dry skin)
• Relaxing – it has a soothing effect on the autonomic nervous system and can thus be good to treat areas of chronic pain. In a book on trigger points, Simeon Niel-Asher points to increasing anecdotal evidence that MLD can help to release trigger points, particularly around the neck and clavipectoral areas in the acute phase of whiplash injury (The Concise Book of Trigger Points: A Professional and Self-Help Manual (Third Edition), Simeon Niel-Asher, Lotus Publishing (August 2014), p.53)

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I am qualified to Level 1, so am unfortunately unable to treat people with oedemas that are not caused by operation or injury, or general water retention. If you would like to find out where you can receive treatments for lymphoedema, or any information in general about MLD, you can visit the MLD UK website:
As with massage, I advise drinking water after the treatment, to help the body flush out the toxins. I also give lymphatic-specific homecare advice. This may include simple tips such as elevating a swollen leg to assist venous return and the flow of lymph; or information about compression stockings; or particular exercises that may help to stimulate the lymphatic system.
A couple of examples of successful treatments that I have carried out:
• Helping to reduce swelling in an ankle that a patient had experienced for several years after an injury, which went back to almost normal after a course of six treatments
• Calming a patient with chronic digestive issues who suffer from a lot of gas – she felt it helped to release the gas
• Aiding the quick reduction in swelling and scar tissue in a patient who had undergone knee surgery – the surgeon even commented on how impressed he was with the recovery
Contraindications (when the treatment is not advised / or when necessary to proceed with caution):
• This therapy is not suitable for people undergoing treatment for cancer. It is fine / can be adapted when you have recovered and had your doctor’s permission
• Acute infections and viruses
• During the first three days of a cold
• Cardiac decompensation
• Unusually low or high blood pressure (diagnosed)
• Pregnancy – seek doctor’s permission

It’s advisable not to drink alcohol or caffeine after lymphatic drainage for the rest of that day as that would be reloading your newly-cleansed body with toxins, and it could make you feel a bit queasy. The most common side effects of this cleansing treatment to be aware of are urinating more frequently (as your body expels waste products) and tiredness. Rarely, people can feel slightly nauseous. As with the feeling of soreness after a massage, the nausea is usually experienced by people who have not had the treatment before or not for a long time. Also similarly to massage, good results are achieved and side effects eliminated/reduced after a series of regular treatments.