What is MLD

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is what we call a “skin technique” . It is an advanced therapy in which the MLD therapist uses specialized , infinitely light, rhythmic pumping techniques on the skin in order encourage lymph to move in the direction in which the skin is being stretched.This stimulates the lymphatic vessels which carry substances vital to the defense of the body and removes waste products.

MLD is used to help to treat a variety of conditions: Lymphoedema , Lipoedema , and Venous insufficiency.MLD is the new go to therapy to help treat and reduce post operative oedema after most Cosmetic Surgery procedures as it will  reduce bruising and swelling and promote healing.

MLD has applications in scar treatment especially when combined with Low-Level Laser therapy when it will reduce the fibrotic scar and encourage fluid drainage.Equally Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapy is a therapy which heightens well being and relaxation .

An MLD treatment is always preceeded by a consultation during which a medical history will be discussed so that a treatment plan can be formulated. Depending on the condition being treated , sessions to help treat lymphoedema and other oedemas typically last approximately one hour and where appropriate the therapist will work in conjunction with your medical practitioner.

MLD needs to be carried out by a fully qualified and reviewed therapist who has qualified in one of the recognized schools , Vodder , Casley-Smith , Leduc , Voldi or FG-MLD.

Benefits of MLD

Apart from being both preventative and remedial it can enhance your well being. Furthermore, MLD….

  • Has been proven to be very efficient in the treatment and reduction of primary and secondary lymphoedema( please see below ).
  • A very up and coming treatment both preoperatively in order to prepare the tissues for the procedure and post operatively to help to encourage draining and healing and to reduce the scarring.
  • Promotes the healing of fractures, torn ligaments, sprains and lessens pain.
  • Is deeply relaxing.
  • Can improve many chronic conditions: sinusitus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, acne and other skin conditions.
  • May strengthen the immune system as part of “detox” treatment.
  • Relieves fluid congestion: swollen ankles, tired puffy eyes and swollen legs due to pregnancy.
  • Is an effective component of the treatment and control of lymphoedema (which may occur after cancer treatment) and assists in conditions arising from venous insufficiency.
  • Promotes healing of wounds and burns and improves the appearance of old scars.

The History

During the early 1930’s Dr. Emil Vodder created a unique range of movements which brought relief from chronic conditions such as sinus congestion and catarrh. Since Vodder’s pioneering work, MLD has spread world wide and has become a popular treatment in many European hospitals and clinics. It is now gained acceptance worldwide as a component in the treatment and control of lymphoedema.

There are 5 leading schools teaching recognised forms of Manual Lymphatic Drainage :Vodder, Casely Smith , Foldi , Leduc and the newest school FG-MLD which is based on latest empirical research.

What is Lymphoedema ?

Lymphoedema is the term used to describe swelling that can occur anywhere in the body, but most commonly affects the limbs. It is important to note, that swelling can occur for different reasons, and it is important that a diagnosis about the underlying cause of swelling is made by a qualified health care professional.

Lymphoedema can be classified as Primary or Secondary, depending on the cause. Primary Lymphoedema may be present at birth, develop at puberty or in mid-life, and relates to abnormal functioning of the lymphatic system, either due to lack of lymphatic structures or under working vessels.

Secondary Lymphoedema may occur following treatment for cancer, surgery, radiation therapy, recurrent infections, trauma such as vein stripping.

If Lymphoedema is left untreated, there is a risk that it may worsen over time. Lymphoedema is not curable, but there are ways to control and manage symptoms that can also help to improve quality of life.

How can Manual Lymphatic Drainage help ?

The lymphatic system is an important part of the body’s defences against infection. It is made up of groups of lymph nodes or glands throughout the body, connected by a network of lymphatic vessels. It contains cells which fight infection, transports excess fluid from body tissues and gets rid of waste and bacteria.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a very gentle, light touch skin technique used to treat and control different types of lymphoedema or swelling of an arm, leg or other part of the body due to an abnormal build-up of a fluid called lymph in the body tissues. MLD uses the lymphatic system to cleanse the body, reduce and ease swelling and strengthen the immune system by stimulating the flow of lymph.

How is MLD used to treat Secondary Lymphoedema?

MLD therapists treat lymphoedema using MLD and Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT); an intensive treatment that combines Manual Lymphatic Drainage, compression garments, exercise and skin care.  The therapist uses a range of specialised and gentle rhythmic pumping techniques to move the excess fluid into an area with a working lymph vessel system. This stimulates the lymphatic vessels and helps move excess fluid away from the swollen area so that it can drain away normally.The MLD treatment is followed by the fitting of compression garments, to reduce limb size.The therapist will also discuss how to minimise the risk of infection by washing and moisturising the skin and the importance of regular gentle exercise to encourage efficient lymph flow.

CDT (Combined Decongestive Therapy) an addition to MLD ?

CDT is a strict necessary after an MLD treatment in certain conditions eg Lymphoedema , Venous Oedema and certain post operative oedema in order to contain the oedema and compress the limb in question in order to prevent refill ….CDT comprises compression, Simple Lymph techniques (SLT)  breathing , skin care and exercises.

Compression  is used  in the form of bandaging or compression garments after an MLD treatment in order to compresss the limb and prevent the limb from refilling ….Compression becomes an auxillary pump to help to encourage lymph to flow to the next available site .

SLT Simple Lymph Techniques ….this an integral part of post MLD care .The patient is shown simple techniques to use on his/herself to help to increase drainage when necessary and the use of exercise and breathing exercises are also a large part of the treatment which MLD therapists should teach patients as they further the drainage that is obtained during the hands on MLD session .

Teaching the patient how and when to use SLT, breathing  exercises, compression and exercise as well as contra- indications to avoid exacerbating the condition gives them a role to play in the management of their condition , which inevitably means they feel more independent and able to cope with daily life.

MLD and Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK. About 46,000 women get breast cancer in the UK each year. Most of them (8 out of 10) are over 50, but younger women and, in rare cases, men can also get breast cancer.

Coping with a cancer diagnosis and resulting treatment is an emotionally and physically difficult journey for the patient and their family. Following the removal of lymph nodes and radiation therapy, Secondary Lymphoedema or swelling of the arm affects about 25% of breast cancer patients. Symptoms of Secondary Lymphoedema can include:

  • A feeling of fullness or heaviness
  • Tightness and stretching of the skin
  • Swelling
  • Reduced movement of the joints
  • Thickening and dryness of the skin
  • Discomfort and/or pain
  • Clothing, shoes or jewellery (such as rings or watches) feeling tighter than usual.

This condition can cause additional pain, discomfort and anxiety, however, it can also be successfully treated and managed by  non invasive Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD).

Please see above re how MLD can help with the treatment of Lymphoedema post breast cancer .

How long will the treatment take?

The treatment of lymphoedema falls roughly into two categories:

  • Phase One – an intensive treatment period for reduction of the swollen area which is out of control which will always end with compression bandaging.
  • Phase Two – a maintenance phase intended to keep the area as reduced as possible after the intensive Phase One treatment.This phase will be when compression garments/wraps will be used post treatment .
  • Simple Lymph Techniques , exercises, breathing , diet and contraindications will be discussed during the sessions.

MLD and Cosmetic Surgery healing

There is an ever growing popularity of Cosmetic Surgery procedures on both the the body and the face and MLD is the A list treatment post surgery.

After cosmetic surgery the initial after effects, such as swelling and bruising, can be painful and debilitating. Factors such as procedure, age, general health, lifestyle etc, will determine the length of recovery time needed for the person and skin post operatively however, a course of MLD treatment makes the healing process MUCH faster.

 Manual Lymphatic Drainage.How can it help?

Described as “One of the best kept secrets on the health and beauty scene”, MLD’s intensely relaxing effect masks the strength of the treatment itself. It is a very gentle, light touch massage but hugely profound in the results it produces. It encourages the movement of fluid/lymph from an area of stagnation to an area of “flow” – one of the functions of the Lymphatics is to transport the body’s waste on its way to be excreted. Specific and gentle movements of the skin stimulate and increase the rate of removal of waste products, toxins and excess fluid from the body’s tissues.

MLD is regularly prescribed in Europe to improve healing and reduce recovery time after cosmetic surgery. Treatment pre and post surgery is often recommended to get the lymphatic system in peak condition to help reduce the swelling and bruising, keep it operating at optimum levels to accelerate the healing process, encourage better scar formation and ultimately reveal the new you in less time.

Are there any side effects to the treatment?

There are usually no bad side effects and it is perfectly safe to eat before and after a MLD treatment. It helps to drink some water after your treatment and you may need to go to the toilet more often, as the re-energised lymphatic system starts to recycle excess fluid and waste. After an MLD treatment, you should feel more relaxed and reenergised although sleepiness is also reported.

MLD an alternative way to detox 

Whether it be spring clean ,preparation for a big event such as wedding, or part of a beach body regime for holidays MLD can provide a solution. Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) as a stand-alone therapy or combined with diet and exercise will deliver powerful and noticeable results.

How does Manual Lymphatic Drainage help the body detox?

MLD’s intensely relaxing effect masks the strength of the treatment itself. It is a very gentle, light touch massage that improves the ability of the body’s lymphatic system to cleanse from the inside out.

Specific and gentle movements of the skin stimulate and increase the rate of removal of waste.

  • Clearer and cleaner skin
  • Reduced puffiness around the eyes
  • Reduced cellulite
  • Reduced fluid retention
  • Improved skin tone

As no oils or powders are used it is completely safe even for those with sensitive skin.

Pregnancy – swollen ankles

MLD is NOT advised in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Many mums-to-be experience swollen ankles during their pregnancy. Although this type of swelling or oedema can indicate a dangerous condition called pre-eclampsia, a certain amount of oedema is normal during pregnancy, as the body naturally retains more water and the circulatory system comes under increasing pressure.

Tips such as putting your feet up and taking it easy can help to alleviate the problem, however, busy modern-day mums often don’t have time to heed this advice and needlessly put up with this uncomfortable and unattractive condition, which largely affects women in the third trimester.

How can Manual Lymphatic Drainage help reduce swollen ankles?

Specific and gentle movements of the skin stimulate and increase the rate of removal of waste products, toxins and excess fluid from the body’s tissues resulting in reduced fluid retention, swelling and puffiness of the ankles.