What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?
If you’ve ever dealt with swelling or fluid retention, you may have heard of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD). MLD is a specialized massage technique that targets the lymphatic system in our bodies. Modern MLD can be traced back to the 1930s when it was developed by a Danish physiotherapist named Emil Vodder and his wife, Estrid. They were pioneers in recognizing the importance of the lymphatic system and its role in our overall health. Since then, MLD has gained recognition and popularity as an effective treatment for managing swelling and fluid retention. This is why one of the most popular forms of MLD is called the Vodder Technique. Most research on MLD uses the Vodder Technique. Anyone trained in Vodder Technique should have a nearly identical technique to another Vodder trained therapist. At The Supine Studio, all our therapists are trained in Vodder MLD.
MLD stimulates the lymphatic vessels into contracting, which helps move excess fluid and waste products out of the swollen area. Think of this like the lymph vessels like the people at a stadium doing the wave. As one section sits, the next section stands. That’s like how the lymph fluid moves, from one section to the next. This movement helps to direct fluid to healthy lymph nodes and channels, promoting efficient drainage and reducing swelling over time. This can also help enhance immune function.
What Can Manual Lymphatic Drainage Help With?
Swelling isn’t just an annoyance; it can have significant effects on our bodies. Excess fluid buildup can lead to discomfort, restricted range of motion, and difficulty with daily activities. In some cases, swelling can also impede the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, hindering the healing process. That’s why effectively managing swelling and fluid retention is crucial for maintaining optimal health and well-being.
Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage Safe?
There are some conditions that are contraindicated for MLD. People with active acute infections, like cellulitis, should not receive MLD until the infection has responded to antibiotics. People with lymphedema should receive MLD only from a therapist who has completed lymphedema training. This is a separate 135 hour training certification that teaches therapists how to safely work with lymphedema. This is why it’s so incredibly important to be honest during your intake. We want to help, but we want to help you safely.
Depending on your health history, we will modify the MLD protocol. For example, if you had breast cancer in one breast, we will redirect fluid to the unaffected side. If we were to do a standard protocol with no modifications, it could overwhelm the lymphatic system and cause swelling. There are lots of modifications that can be done. This is why it’s important to receive MLD from someone trained.
What to Expect After Manual Lymphatic Drainage?
MLD speeds up the lymph vessels. Contractions from from about 10-12 per minute to about 60 per minute with MLD. This means that lymphatic fluid is moving about six times faster with MLD. This is what helps move edema out of an area. This also consumes energy. That’s why we recommend our clients take it easy after MLD, especially their first session and after post-op MLD, to give their bodies time to rest and recover. After your session, it’s typical to feel tired after. If you were expecting to start your menstrual cycle soon, it might start a little early.
Our team of Vodder trained therapists have each gone through a 40 hour certification course. Our team regularly consults with each other on difficult cases. It’s part of how we make sure we give the best care to each client.