Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage Effective?

Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage Effective?

I’m sometimes asked, “is manual lymphatic drainage effective”? The short answer is yes. I’ll give a more detailed explanation below, but since  Manual lymphatic drainage is still quite niche, it can provide huge benefits. Unfortunately many people are unaware of it unless they have a medical condition such as lymphoedema and have been referred by their doctor or another therapist. I would like to see people try it for other reasons as it is such a healing therapy, so I`ve written a brief piece to give a basic explanation and answer some common questions!

What Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage Effective For?

MLD is a form of massage that works by specifically targeting the lymphatic system. It uses gentle, rhythmic, pumping movements to move excessive fluid build up from the area or tissues affected back into the main circulatory system. We can accumulate excess lymph for a number of reasons such as a sluggish or damaged lymphatic system, injury, illness, unbalanced lifestyle or lymph node removal. Because the lymphatic vessels have no pump unlike the circulatory system, they rely on the muscles of the body moving or deep breathing to carry the lymph around. This is why they need a helping hand sometimes. MLD really helps get things moving well.

How did MLD come about?

Dr Emil Vodder and his wife Estrid Vodder are responsible for coming up with the original lymphatic drainage method. This is the method I have trained in. Dr Vodder studied biology in Copenhagen where he was born. He moved to Paris in 1933 to continue studying biology with his wife Estrid. Dr Vodder discovered there an anatomical atlas focused on the lymphatic system that inspired the method of drainage he developed. Based on this atlas he came up with the light, circular pumping massage. In the 50`s he became more recognised for his work and travelled to various European countries to teach his method. In 1966 the association of Dr Vodders Manual Lymphatic Drainage was formed and in 1967 the first Vodder school was opened in Austria. It is now a highly recognised physical therapy in many countries.

Is MLD safe?

The treatment is safe for most people but it is important to note that it is not suitable for people with congestive heart failure, blood clots (deep vein thrombosis), kidney issues, even infection, circulatory issues or any current infection. As the treatment is literally pumping excess stuck lymph back into the main circulation, all the organs and systems connected to the filtration and distribution of blood need to be in good working order. However MLD is safe and very effective for a number of conditions, the obvious being excess lymph or swelling in the tissues. It is important to rule out a serious medical cause also with this if it is longstanding and all over the body, however a lot of the time it is not serious and can be due to allergies, medications, damage to the lymphatic system, injury etc. Occasionally the question arises, “is manual lymphatic drainage effective for people with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia/arthritis/M.S./chronic pain?” The answer is yes! Unlike deep tissue massage or sports massage, it’s a much lighter touch that focuses on the lymphatic system. It is great for the nervous system as it highly stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system inducing very deep relaxation. Anyone suffering from stress, anxiety or depression could benefit from this treatment. Digestive issues and allergies, sinusitis and migraines can also be treated with MLD.

When is it best to receive treatment?

If you are currently experiencing an infection of any kind it is not wise to do MLD as the infection can be spread. Aside from this and the above-mentioned contraindications, I would choose a time when you don`t have to do anything too taxing for the day of treatment and the following day. The reason for this is that it is a highly detoxifying treatment and can provoke a “healing crisis”.This just means that you may experience heightened symptoms of whatever issues you are addressing. It is also common to feel “spacey”, emotional or to have flu-like symptoms. This is actually a good sign that the treatment is working and these symptoms will pass in a couple of days, but it is good to have the time to heal.

What clients say about it…

A variety of things! The main one is they are surprised at how such a light massage can provoke such deep relaxation. The massage uses what is referred to as zero pressure as the lymph vessels are located just under the skin. I have gotten the feedback that it can be quite a trance-like state and that is something I have experienced myself. I have a client who uses it for her sinusitis and allergies and finds it very effective. I have had clients have quite a few of the healing crisis symptoms in the first and sometimes the second session and then receive it with no adverse effect. The main response is definitely the clients noticing how deeply relaxing it is. As the therapist, the thing I like about it is that it also stimulates my parasympathetic nervous system as it is so slow and rhythmic!

How many sessions are recommended?

It is very individual but I would generally say 6 to 8 sessions as a rule of thumb for chronic health conditions. For relaxation, one session is effective and for injury, a positive effect could be noted from between 1 to 4 sessions. Again, everybody is different so it is good to go with the flow.

How do I book a session?

Just call or text me on my contact number listed on the site or send me an email at
If you want to find out is manual lymphatic drainage effective for your particular situation, feel free to give me a call and we can discuss your situation.