What is manual lymph drainage?



Manual Lymph Drainage (also referred to as simply MLD) is a very gentle type of massage therapy used to drain excess fluid from the body and improve the overall functioning of the lymphatic (immune) system.

MLD originated in Europe during the 1930s. It was first used on patients as an effective way to detoxify (ridding of waste) the body. Today, MLD is still used as a way to improve the inner workings of the lymphatic system. The massage is applied gently in the direction of lymph flow in order to unblock any obstructed lymph vessels, and allow lymph flow to transport waste from the body freely.

MLD massage is performed by a certified MLD massage therapist, who applies a light form of circular massage to their clients skin. MLD massages must be applied to bare skin, and no massage oils or lotions can be used in order for the treatment to be effective. MLD massage is applied in gentle strokes towards the heart. This technique will lightly stretch the walls of the lymph vessels and encourage lymph drainage.

Indications for Manual Lymph Drainage


  • Primary and secondary lymphedema

  • Acne, rosacea, sinusitis (without infection)

  • Congestive conditions such as rosacea, facial erythrosis, facial edema and hematomas (the last 2 after face lift)

  • Pre-operative before facial surgeries to prepare skin and lymph system

  • Pre- and post- plastic surgery, pre- and post- elective surgery

  • Pre- and post- hip/knee replacements

  • Post bone fractures/ cast removal

  • Blocked tear ducts

  • Skin alterations or chronic injury: allergies, chronic eczema, chronic inflammation with excess protein in the loose connective tissue

  • Scars become smaller, softer and less visible

  • Keloids new and old have good results with MLD

  • Cellulite: spongy, waterlogged tissue is an indication for MLD

  • Pregnancy/maternal care: prevent leg edema and striae gavidarum (stretch marks) with regular MLD. Existing stretch marks can improve with MLD. Prophylactic MLD can prevent stretch marks

  • Mastodynia: breast tenderness or pain during ovulation. Possibly due to lymph congestion, regular MLD relieves mastitis (without infections), fibrocystic breasts, premenstrual swelling

  • Thick legs, heavy legs, fatigued legs

  • Weight loss with MLD will maintain skin tautness

  • Venous insufficiency

  • Circulatory disturbances, constipation, digestive congestion

  • Sports injuries, sprains and strain, sciatica, piriformis syndrome, chronic low back pain or strain, compartment syndrome

  • Non-infected inflammatory conditions (e.g. sprains and strains)

  • Colds, congestion, post-cold or flu congestion and acute or chronic coughs

  • Shoulder/neck trauma, whiplash, tendinitis, possibly disc conditions (herniation, etc..)