What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?
First up, let’s start off by understanding what Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) actually is. There’s a common misperception of this therapy – even amongst therapists – so it’s important to understand when you are getting MLD and when you are getting a lymphatic massage, and what the differences or benefits are.
MLD is a therapy which supports and stimulates the bodies lymphatic system, putting the system under load to get it working harder and more effectively. It has a systematic (whole system) effect – think of it as turning on the vacuum cleaner (turning on the lymphatic system). It’s more effective with results long lasting – for days, not just during the treatment.
Lymphatic massage or effleurage is more of a toothpaste effect – you’re just emptying the system, not activating it, so it will refill at a faster rate, therefore bringing shorter or less effective results.
So, while both will have immediate results, the overall impact and effectiveness will be quite different.
While MLD may be incorporated into a remedial massage treatment, it is not a form of massage. More a technique which can be integrated to support the bodies lymphatic system and healing process. It’s an incredibly gentle treatment which is why it can be used effectively in some acute conditions as well as in lymphedema management.
What are the functions of the lymphatic system?
The primary role of the lymphatic system is circulation of lymphocytes – immune elements – for protection of the body. It also removes fluid leaked by the capillaries into connective tissue spaces, removes protein and lipid molecules too large to enter blood capillaries, removes waste materials from the tissue and assists in maintaining blood volume.
If the lymphatic system is functioning at an optimal rate then the body is clean and healthy and able to support normal immune function and healing. If the lymphatic system is compromised due to injury or illness then Manual Lymphatic Drainage can help the system work more effectively bringing the body back to homeostasis (balance).
What symptoms can Manual Lymphatic Drainage treat?
1.Sinusitis – by removing congestion from the affected areas it enables the immune system to function more effectively and support the natural healing process of the body. MLD can treat chronic sinusitis and can have long-lasting effects.
2.Sports injuries (e.g. ACL tear, sprained ankle) – MLD will remove the excess fluid from the tissues (swelling) and expedite the healing process. Inflammation of the area will be reduced, bruising will heal much faster and oxygen will circulate through the tissues more effectively.
3.Bursitis or tendonitis (to include epicondylitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis and so on) – MLD will reduce inflammation in the area, enabling oxygen to circulate and the body’s tissues to heal more effectively.
4.Respiratory conditions – especially good for people recovering from bronchitis. A treatment will help to clear congestion in lungs, get the lymph flowing more freely through the area, boost immunity post-illness and support healing.
5.Surgery (orthopaedic or cosmetic) – pre-surgery it will get the lymphatic system firing effectively so it’s ‘ready to go’ and will be able to work more effectively following the surgery. Post-surgery it will reduce swelling, help bruising heal faster and increase the natural healing process. As the pressure is so light it can be used post-surgery with no discomfort. These are just a small selection of some of the conditions MLD can be used to treat. It can also help with traumatic injuries, TMJ, bowel issues such as constipation, frozen shoulder, headaches or migraines, respiratory clearance if you’re giving up smoking, management of swelling in the legs from vein removal and many more…
Even if you don’t have a specific issue, the calming effect MLD has on the sympathetic nervous system alongside stimulation of immune function can benefit even the healthiest of people – supporting with stress management and better immunity.
If you are suffering from lymphedema you’ll need to be referred to a therapist specialising in lymphedema treatment.Hannah is a Remedial Massage Therapist specialising in lymphatic therapies. She has completed her basic and level 1 studies with the Dr Vodder School – International. If you have any questions or would like to know more about Manual Lymphatic Drainage and how it can benefit you, give the clinic a call and we can arrange a short phone consultation with Hannah prior to your treatment
AMT (Association of Massage Therapists) accreditation
Health fund rebates available