Manual Lymphatic Therapy (MLD)

Detoxifies tissues and lymph system reduces pain and swelling speeds healing minimizes scars aids in deep relaxation and stress relief

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a rhythmic, gentle, repetitive movements that encourage the lymph system to move more efficiently.

MLD is not massage therapy, it is not painful or deep or rigorous.

Deep pressure massage only impedes healing, impedes movement of lymph fluid, can increase swelling and can make healing take longer.

In fact it may feel as if ‘I am doing nothing!’

  • edema and fluid retention
  • Lymphedema
  • breast cancer surgery recovery
  • cosmetic surgery recovery
  • liposuction recovery
  • scar and burn healing
  • sinus issues and allergies
  • diabetic and cancer related peripheral neuropathy
  • fibromyalgia
  • rheumatoid arthritis

The one word for an MLD session is “relaxing”. The lymph vessels are often just

below the skin, so we use a very light pressure (about the weight of a nickel), rhythmic, repetitive movements.

3 words to describe MLD- relaxing, relaxing, relaxing!

Using rhythmic, gentle movements, we seek to create a very relaxing treatment, often slower and lighter than your usual massage. This is the most effective treatment for Lymphedema. It stimulates the lymphatic system to increase lymph flow as well as redirecting the flow around any damaged vessels or nodes.


Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid in tissues causing swelling, most often in arms or legs although it does occur in other parts of the body. This is due to lymph vessels that are either damaged or missing or when lymph nodes have been removed. When the drainage of the lymph fluid is impaired, it can get congested and collect in the tissues and cause swelling. If left untreated, the protein-rich lymph fluid increases and causes more swelling , the skin begins to break down causing poor wound healing and a hardening of the area occurs. Lymphedema can occur due to the result of surgery, radiation, infection or damage to the lymph system. This can occur days, weeks, or years later. It can also occur from a congenital malformation.

Lymphedema is a life long condition which requires you to do long term management.

  • Your skin may feel tight.
  • You may notice that your jewelry or clothes such as rings, necklaces, socks, shoes or watches seem tighter.
  • Less flexibility in your hand, wrist or ankle.
  • A full or heavy sensation in limbs or area of the body.
  • If you notice persistent swelling, seek medical advice immediately.

What should you do if you see or feel swelling?

An early diagnosis is important and greatly improves the prognosis and your general condition. Remember to get a second opinion as many doctors are not familiar with Lymphedema.

Latency Stage – no swelling, excess fluid begins to build up; “normal” tissue consistency

Stage I – tissue is soft and pitting, no secondary changes; elevation reduces swelling

Stage II – hardening of the tissue; difficult to achieve pitting; frequent infections

Stage III – extreme increase in fluid buildup and hardening of tissue with typical skin changes

The gold standard for addressing Lymphedema is Dr. Vodder’s Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). This is a 4 part therapy:

  1. Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
  2. Compression Bandaging
  3. Skin and Wound care
  4. Exercises

You may need all or part of this treatment depending on the nature of your condition.

  • Heal in half the time
  • Quickly decrease swelling due to the trauma of surgery and Lipo
  • Less pain, discomfort and bruising
  • Less hardness, lumps and dimply skin
  • Decrease seromas and other pockets of fluid

Quicker results after:

  • liposuction
  • breast augmentation or breast reduction
  • breast reconstruction
  • abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)
  • facelifts
  • fat injections (e.g. Brazilian butt lift)

Some plastic surgeons recommend that their patients receive anywhere from 5 to 10 lymph drainage session after surgery or Lipo. In South America, it’s not uncommon to receive MLD even more often (which may explain the incredible results cosmetic surgeons are famous for in those countries).

Ideally, patients should have an MLD treatment 24 to 48 hours before surgery. The treatment will prepare the skin tissue by cleansing it of impurities and giving the surgeon clean, healthy tissue to cut into, reducing the risk of infection and other post-op complications. And then resume MLD treatment right after surgery.

Sure, It’s easy to find someone to do ‘lymph massage’ (whatever that is) for half of what I charge … someone who will tell you that you need a preset number of sessions, someone who will use a lot of pressure to ‘push the fluid and break up the hard spots’. Yes, ouch!!!

But the reality is that I have hundreds of hours of training in MLD and spend at least 3 days every 2 years doing recertification and keeping up on all the latest techniques and research.

Manual Lymph Drainage has been standard of practice for decades in Europe and S. America and only recently becoming the Gold Standard of Care in the US. It is finally being recognized as the best, most effective way to heal from plastic surgery.


Society for Oncology Massage

The S4OM was founded in May 2008 and is a resource for massage therapists to find instructors, courses and patients to find Oncology Massage therapists.

The National Lymphedema Network

Look here to find therapists equipped to work with lymphedema and other resources regarding Lymphedema.

Dr. Vodder School International (original MLD method)

Lots of good information and history on Manual Lymph Drainage

Lindi Skin

A line of skin care products especially developed for people in cancer treatment.

Lymphedema People

A great website for people hoping people. Great forum and lots of hands oninformation.

Insight Therapies

Yvonne Fisher is an amazing Bowen and EFT Therapist …