Manual Lymphatic Drainage
Swelling is normal after surgery or injury but persistent swelling is not. When tissues are damaged from tissue trauma, the lymphatic system works overtime to clear the area of cellular waste and defend the body from infection. This inflammation is a normal part of healing. It's the body's natural response to an injury. Lymphatic vessels are located in the layer right below the skin and above the muscle bed. These vessels drain areas of swelling and they act like sewer pipes under the skin.
When there's prolonged or excessive swelling, the fluid pulls on the tissues and the tension and irritation drives more scar tissue formation. This means more swelling, more scar tissue, more pain. One way you can alleviate swelling, tightness and pain is through manual lymphatic drainage or lymphatic massage. MLD is a great technique to promote recovery from surgeries, acute muscle or bone trauma, hematomas, and whiplash.
Commonly referred to as MLD, Manual Lymphatic Drainage involves a hands on specific light skin stretch technique designed to move and redirect fluid (lymph and interstitial fluid) out of a swollen area into healthy lymph vessels. MLD is a technique used by trained therapists to move or reroute fluid to functioning lymph vessels and nodes.
Manual lymphatic drainage can usually start 48 hours after surgery. The technique feels like a gentle skin stretch that leaves your skin feeling lighter, less puffy and less painful. Lymphatic vessels are superficial so they don’t need to be pressed hard. Pushing hard closes the vessels.
In the oncology setting, MLD can assist with post surgical recovery, edema reduction, pain control, hematoma reduction, relaxation and improved sleep. Surgeries, radiation and soft tissue injuries during cancer treatment can disrupt the architecture of the lymphatic vessels and nodes. Scar tissue and fascial restrictions can also interrupt or restrict the superficial lymphatic flow.
In Lymphedema, MLD can is used to reroute fluid around blocked areas into healthy lymphatic regions and lymph nodes. MLD is one of the cornerstones of Complete Decongestive Therapy for the treatment of Lymphedema.
If you are in active chemotherapy treatment, consult with your healthcare provider as to appropriate timing of MLD therapy. MLD treatments should be avoided to irradiate areas for at least 4-6 weeks after the last radiation treatment or per the recommendation of the radiation oncologist.
Please reach out if you have any questions. I'm Certified Manual Lymphatic Drainage therapist (2011) and Certified Lymphedema therapist (2023) from Klose Training, one of the leading institutions of Vodder Technique.