WHAT IS MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE?

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a gentle, non-invasive manual technique that has a powerful effect on the body. It utilises techniques that are soft, gentle and pain-free. It was developed in France in 1932 by Emil and Estrid Vodder. Based on scientific, physiological principles that have proven to encourage lymph flow.

WHAT ARE THE PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE?

Three major physiological effects of MLD were discovered with over 40 years of scientific studies. 

1. Decongestive effect: Our lymphatic system drain in a single direction (one-way street). The ultimate goal is to transport the lymphatic loads which include proteins, fat, water, waste products and other cellular components from the tissue back into the circulatory system (blood vessels). Lymph vessels and fluids are like the body's waste removal system. MLD technique induces a pumping effect in the tissues. The mechanical stretch of the skin is able to stimulate the mechanoreceptor around the lymph vessels and accelerate (up to 20 times) the lymphatic pathway's own pumping rhythms, thus enhances the drainage effect resulting in rapid decongestion and restoration of normal tissue. 

2. Sympatholytic effect: MLD affects the nervous system by lowering sympathetic tonus as demonstrated by Hutzschenreuter in Germany. Smooth muscles innervated by the sympathetic nervous system (fight and flight) such as blood, lymph vessels and intestinal motility can be affected. MLD can help clients to recuperate from chronic illness by allowing their parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) to predominate (Vodder School, 2020). MLD is very calming and relaxing, it is also a great preventative treatment for burnout. 

3. Analgesic effect: MLD stimulates the lymphatic system to alleviate pain (Gate control theory). It can also help the drainage of pain mediators into the lymphatic system. Any prolonged pain, such as migraine, acute injury, fibromyalgia etc., is among the indications for MLD.

WHAT ABOUT THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?

Even though further scientific studies are required, base on the decongestive effect of MLD, it may indirectly affect the immune system. By assisting lymph flow, MLD is thought to bring pathogens quicker to the lymph nodes where they can be neutralised (with caution).  The increased rate of lymphatic drainage may also heighten the sensitisation of lymphocytes and macrophages. Macrophages can travel more rapidly via the blood flow to reach the injury site and intervene by phagocytosis.

WHAT IS LYMPHOEDEMA?

Lymphoedema is swelling caused by the build-up of lymph fluid in the body. Cancer treatment involving excision or irradiation of the lymph nodes are the most coming cause of secondary lymphoedema. Lymphoedema causes swelling in the limbs and may involve the trunk or head as well.  Other than swelling, lymphoedema can leads to discomfort, loss of movement and tissue changes. These can all impact the patient's quality of life. Manual lymphatic drainage is a way of reducing swelling by moving fluid from the swollen area into a place where the lymphatic system is working normally. MLD is also beneficial for other forms of lymphoedema (primary), phlebolymphedema, venous insufficiency and lipedema, 

For more information on lymphoedema please visit: Lymphoedema New Zealand

You can email us or speak to your GP if you think you might have lymphoedema.

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE FOR WELLNESS?

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) isn't just for the treatment of Lymphoedema. It is also very effective for other forms of swelling and post-trauma. It has been used as a pre and post-surgery treatment to improve post-surgery recovery, chronic sinusitis to help with the congestion. It may also be beneficial for migraine sufferers (during non-attack phase) and has personally helped my migraines.
Other conditions that may be helped or provide relieve by MLD:
Whiplash, Tinnitus, Meniere's disease, Traumatic eye injury (during recovery phase), Stress, Bronchitis, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke (recovery phase, Adhesive capsulitis, Epicondylitis (tennis elbow), Post fracture recovery, Burn scar or scar in general, Venous insufficiency, Post-hip replacement recovery, Post-knee replacement recovery, Osteoarthritis

If you would like to know more about the effect of MLD on other conditions please visit: Vodder School

WHAT ARE THE CONTRAINDICATION FOR MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE

Absolute Contraindications: 

  • Any metastatic or systemic malignant conditions must be excluded from MLD. Occasionally MLD will be performed on patients with an advance stage of cancer if the primary health care providers think the benefit outweighs the risk. Approval from the specialist or primary health care provider is required. MLD can sometimes mask the symptoms of cancer patients, there for extra caution must be coinsidered.

  • Acute inflammation caused by bacteria, viruses or foreign bodies.

  • Thrombosis at risk of causing embolism

  • Congestive Heart Failure

  • Renal Failure

Relative contraindication (precautions are required):

  • Oedema following carcinoma treatment

  • Thyroid dysfunction

  • Chronic inflammation 

  • Bronchial asthma

  • Hypotension

  • Splenectomy

  • Diabetes 

  • Autoimmune Disease

If you are unsure if MLD is suitable for you, please send us an email.

HOW MANY SESSIONS DO I NEED?

Everyone's lymphatic system is different. Studies have shown the number of lymph nodes and vessels are different from person to person. Medical histories, genetics, previous surgeries, injuries, medications, age, diet, stress and lifestyle can all affect your lymphatic system functions. 

Generally, for MLD for wellness, 3 initial treatment spaced around once a week or no more than 2 weeks apart is recommended. Then follow-up treatments fortnightly and monthly. Your therapist will discuss the frequency and duration of the treatment with you.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT TO FEEL DURING AND AFTER THE TREATMENT?

Some people may feel tingling and fluid "moving" under the skin. Some clients may experience bloating in the stomach and gurgling. The decrease in swelling/puffiness both localised and general are usually visible straightaway. Your energy level may increase or decrease which usually returns to normal after 48 hours. Again, as we all have a different lymphatic system, everyone's experience will differ and for each session may be different as well.

The effect of MLD even when performed locally (eg. on the neck) will have a systemic influence after 20 minutes of treatment. The benefit will continue after the session has finished for 24 hours and sometimes up to 48 hours. 

WHAT METHOD OF MANUAL LYMPHATIC DRAINAGE SHOULD I CHOOSE?

When Dr Vodder invented MLD back in the 1930s, he never thought of patent the name as his intention was to help people suffering from lymphoedema. The issue now is everyone can use the world manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) even people without any training.

The Australasian Lymphology Association has listed the recognised courses on their website: ALA

So where can you find an MLD therapist(s) with an internationally recognised qualification in New Zealand? 

You can visit Lymphoedema New Zealand website

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