What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage & What Can it Help With?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Massage for Lymphatic Drainage is most commonly called Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD). MLD is a very gentle, rhythmic hands-on treatment during which a qualified therapist will work to stimulate the flow (or ‘drain’) of lymph fluid around your body.

What is your Lymphatic System?

The main job of your lymphatic system is to collect excess fluid from your tissues, ‘clean’ it of toxins and viruses, and return it into the blood stream. A healthy lymphatic system, with its lymph nodes and glands, works with your immune system to defend your body from germs and bacteria.

Your lymph system runs alongside your cardiovascular system, but unlike your veins and arteries, it does not have a “heart” to pump it around; it relies on motor muscle movement to “pump” lymph around the body. For this reason, when you are seated for long periods of time, on long haul flights, post-operatively, post-injury or perhaps in pregnancy; you may experience a pooling of lymph, or swelling (also known as oedema), which creates pressure and discomfort.

Your lymph system has major “drainage” sites in certain regions of your body, including your groin and armpits, where there is a concentration of lymph nodes filled with macrophages and lymphocytes, your body’s natural cleaning system which clean your lymph of any nasties and then send it back into your blood stream fresh and new! During a MLD massage, your therapist’s aim is to help manually direct lymph to these areas to support your body’s ability to drain. As your lymph system sits just under the surface of the skin, the treatment itself is very gentle, slow and soothing.


How does MLD help?

This treatment can assist in reducing swelling after injury, surgery, long haul flights or during pregnancy. It aids in improving the removal of wastes and supporting a sluggish lymphatic system, which can also help support your immune system.

The reduction of fluid retention and the pressure associated with that, can also assist in improving your circulation. This can create a sense of lightness and improved energy after receiving a MLD treatment. Manual Lymphatic Drainage improves circulation, increases your metabolic rate, and has the potential to improve your immunity. It has also been shown to be very beneficial in post-operative conditions that affect your lymphatic systems such as post-mastectomy. 25-33% of all breast cancer sufferer develop lymphoedema (Kelly D 2008, Stubblefield M 2011), which can be assisted through MLD.


What Conditions can Manual Lymphatic Drainage benefit:

  • Swollen legs or arms due to fluid retention (post flight, pregnancy etc)
  • Swelling of a limb: pre or post-surgery. (Hock K, Colby L 2012)
  • Post-mastectomy or breast cancer treatment. (Torres Lacomba M et al 2010)
  • Breast tenderness & congestion.
  • Fibromyalgia & Lupus
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Hormonal & emotional imbalances
  • Recurrent infections such as colds, flu, tonsillitis, sinus & yeast infections.


What to expect from your first MLD treatment:

Your first MLD session is ordinarily 60-90 minutes. For a sluggish system, or for swelling which spans more than one limb, we recommend a 90min session.

After completing an intake form, your therapist will chat with you about your medical history and goals for treatment, followed by a soothing sesh on the table. Your therapist will use slow and gentle rhythmic strokes, to emulate the “pump” of the lymphatic system. They may use powder, balm or oil, in conjunction with other massage modalities, all of which will be discussed with your prior to your session commencement.

Your therapist will guide you with recommendations for follow up care and treatments based on your response to your MLD treatment.

We have a number of therapists at Clarity who are qualified to perform Manual Lymphatic Drainage, and would love the opportunity to take care of you!


Click here to book in an MLD session.


If you have any queries at all, please feel free to contact our friendly admin tea on 088239 0575 or drop us a line at hello@claritywellness.com.au

Sarah Watson

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