Manual Lymphatic Drainage

Manual lymph drainage (MLD) is an integral part of lymphoedema treatment. It is a gentle light skin manipulation with stroking (effleurage) movements and deeper circular or pumping techniques. These help superficial initial lymphatic vessels of the skin to absorb fluid from the tissues and also to enhance lymph fluid propulsion in the larger and deeper transportation vessels of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system returns all the fluid removed from the body tissues to the venous blood system.

MLD was developed over 100 years ago by Winiwarter, a German surgeon, who described the use of massage to remove fluid from swollen tissues in people with lymphoedema. Judith and John Casley-Smith added special MLD techniques to help drain fluid from swollen areas of the body to adjacent healthy areas where the normally functioning lymph drainage is able to compensate and provide an alternative drainage pathway for impaired lymph drainage.

Current research is helping to refine the MLD technique and enable the therapist to individualize the treatment to the status of the true anatomical pathways in each patient.