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What is Manual
Lymph Drainage (MLD)?

MLD techniques are gentle, slow and rhythmic ­— designed to promote lymph flow, and activate the lymphatic system by manually supporting its natural flow and activity.

The lymphatic system prevents edema (swelling) by returning blood capillary filtrate (water) back into the systemic circulation, thus preventing fluid accumulation in the tissue. It also absorbs fat and fat-soluble vitamins from the small intestine, and it recycles proteins — 75 to100 grams of protein are transported by the lymph vessels per day! In addition, the lymphatic system provides immune surveillance by recognizing and responding to foreign cells, microbes, viruses, and cancer cells.

Currently there are no surgeries or medications to support the lymphatic system, only manual therapies like compression, exercise and you guessed it — MLD!

MLD can support the following conditions:

Post-traumatic injuries

  • Sprains, whiplash and hematomas.


Post-surgery swelling

  • Facelift, liposuction, breast reduction or augmentation and joint replacements.


Oncology treatment

  • Post-surgical recovery, edema reduction, pain control, infection prevention (particularly local infections), hematoma reduction/resolution, constipation relief, relaxation, stress reduction, and improved sleep. In addition to generalized impacts, MLD can help support patients with lymphedema by redirecting fluid around damaged or blocked areas.


Autoimmune disorders

  • Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and scleroderma.



  • Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)


Other disorders

  • Migraines, sinus problems, tinnitus, pregnancy edema, Lyme disease, diabetes and inflammation.


General Effects

of MLD:

  • Decreased swelling

  • Pain relief

  • Promotes a parasympathetic nerve response which creates a soothing effect. 

  • Re-direction of fluid around blocked areas typically caused by scar tissue, lymph node removal or radiation.

MLD Fun Facts:

  • Manual Lymph Drainage was developed by Dr. Emil Vodder and his wife Estrid Vodder of Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1935.

  • Lymph nodes are like the ‘mini-kidneys’ of the lymphatic system, filtering and regulating the lymph fluid before it enters the circulatory system. There are 600-700 lymph nodes in the body, and 300 of those are located in the head and neck region.

  • Approximately 1/6 of the human body consists of interstitium — this gelatinous substance is the “glue” that keeps our cells together. Without it, our cells would be loose and unable to form tissues. (Imagine a bowl of jello with grapes in it — the jello is the interstitium, and the grapes are your cells).

  • The fluid in your interstitium is called interstitial fluid, once it enters your lymphatic system it’s called lymph fluid, and when it enters your circulatory system it becomes part of your blood — all the same fluid.

  • The lymphatic system transports (or drains) approximately four liters of lymph fluid from our interstitium to our circulatory system every 24 hours!

  • MLD treatment sequences were designed to follow the body’s natural lymphatic flow direction — each lymph node and lymph node group receives lymph fluid from a specific region of the body. These defined areas are called ‘tributary regions’, and are delineated by ‘lymphatic watersheds’. Located along each watershed are areas where an MLD therapist can actually ‘redirect’ the flow from one tributary to another and temporarily change the direction of your lymphatic flow for about 20 minutes!


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