Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapy

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a skin therapy that stimulates the flow of lymph in the lymphatic vessels to eliminate waste products and to boost your body’s defences.

The lymphatic system is an important part of the body’s defences against infection. It is made up of groups of lymph nodes 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 what we call a “skin technique” rather than a massage 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 defence of the body and removes waste products.

MLD though light in its application, it has a very profound effect on the body and for this reason is used to help to treat a variety of conditions. Here are some of the main applications.

  • Primary/secondary Lymphoedema.
  • Venous oedema.
  • Lipoedema.
  • Post-operative oedema following cosmetic surgery.

Not only is MLD used for more serious pathologies, it is a useful and very efficient therapy for general wellbeing, relaxation and detoxing.

Lymphoedema. A) General B) Cancer esp breast cancer.

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.

Secondary Lymphoedema happens as a result of an incident, accident happening or due to disease and may occur following treatment for cancer, surgery, radiation therapy, recurrent infections or trauma. 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 is MLD used to treat Lymphoedema?

MLD practitioner treats Lymphoedema using a variety of tools: MLD, Deep Oscillation therapy, Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT),Exercise advice, Simple Lymph techniques are taught to the patient and skin care.

The MLD practitioner 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 either compression bandages or the fitting of compression garments, to reduce limb size (once the limb has been measured and garments have been obtained).

There are a variety of aids to manage the oedema in between treatment sessions and going forward when treatment is no longer necessary. These as well as general advise on the condition will be taught to the patient in the sessions e.g. Simple Lymph Techniques, Exercises and breathing techniques which will be required to be performed by the patient at home.

MLD and 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 and similarly in cancers in other areas. 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 Lymphoedema swelling can cause additional pain, discomfort and anxiety, however, it can also be successfully treated and managed by Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD).

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 when MLD sessions will be regular with compression therapy in the form of bandages or garments.
  • Phase Two – a maintenance phase on a less frequent basis intended to keep the area as reduced as possible after the intensive Phase One treatment.


Lipoedema is a chronic female condition due to an uneven distribution of fat cells accumulating below the waist. In Lipoedema, the hips, buttocks, legs and sometimes upper arms, are out of proportion with the rest of the body.

Lipoedema most often develops at times of hormonal change, usually at puberty. Lipoedema looks and feels different to normal body fat or Lymphoedema, feeling both soft, buttery and dimpled .

Unlike normal weight gain caused by over-eating or lack of exercise, Lipoedema fat often (but not always) can be painful or feel heavy and hurt when banged or scraped, even gently Bruising is a frequent occurrence.

MLD and Lipoedema

The gentleness of the Manual Lymphatic Drainage treatment means that the lymphatic flow can be stimulated thus helping reduce oedema It is also useful to reduce pain and discomfort. MLD is most effective when combined with other treatments such as compression bandaging and/or compression garments. Many women say it helps to reduce Lipoedema.

Cosmetic Surgery

MLD is regularly prescribed in Europe to improve healing and reduce recovery time after cosmetic surgery. Used widely now after vaser liposuction and the more classic liposuction to help to speed up healing time by disperse bruising, reduce pain, encourage a better flatter scar formation and reduce the oedema caused by the surgery. Some surgeons advocate pre-operative MLD to get the lymphatic system in peak condition and to drain the body prior to surgery.

“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 that improves the efficiency of the lymphatic system – the body’s waste disposal system. 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.

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 an MLD treatment. It helps to drink some water after your treatment and increased urination is reported as the re-energised lymphatic system starts to recycle excess fluid and waste. Most patients report well-being and drowsiness after treatment.

Venous oedema

Venous oedema, which is sometimes confused with Lymphoedema, is a swelling of the legs caused by a malfunction or obstruction of veins, not lymphatic vessels. It is a common chronic condition, particularly in those of advancing years. It is characterised by lower leg oedema, heaviness, tightness, aching and discomfort, all of which are relieved, to some extent, by elevation. This oedema is called venous oedema.

Manual Lymphatic drainage and compression hosiery therapy has been shown to be effective in improving venous and lymphatic drainage from lower limbs, as well as keeping oedema under control.

Mild to moderate oedema is treated by fitting low to medium compression calf stockings or socks. Moderate to severe oedema may require multi-layer bandaging for a few days to reduce the oedema before fitting stockings.

Hivamat Deep Oscillation® Massage Therapy.

Deep Oscillation® Massage Therapy originated in Germany in 2007 and uses the Hivamat to create low frequencies of gentle electrostatic impulses that ‘knead’ the skin by attracting and releasing it between 5-250 times a second.

Scientifically researched frequencies penetrate the skin up to 8cm and have been proven to remove excess inflammatory caused by products, protein solids and lymph fluid build up; leaving the skin to embark on its natural healing process.

The benefits of Hivamat Deep Oscillation® Massage Therapy with MLD

  • Promote faster healing even on open wounds
  • Reduce cellulite, bruising and scarring
  • Alleviate pain and swelling
  • Enhance pre- and post operative therapy with anti-oedema, lymph drainage, anti-fibrosis and detoxifying properties
  • Lift and tone facial, bust and buttock muscles
  • Stimulate cell and collagen production for tighter skin.

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