Manual lymph drainage, a technique and treatment for swollen lymph nodes, relieves the swelling that happens when medical treatment or illness blocks your lymphatic system. Lymph drainage involves gently manipulating specific areas of your body to help lymph move to an area with working lymph vessels. MLD is a light, skin-stretching massage that helps promote the movement of lymphatic fluid out of the swollen limb. Therapy is applied to your unaffected areas first, making it possible for the fluid to move out of the affected area, or “decongest” the region. MLD helps open the remaining functioning lymph collectors and move protein and fluid into them. This helps speed up lymph fluid flow through the lymphatics.
Manual lymph drainage is effective in treating primary or secondary lymphedema, lipedema, phlebo-lymphostatic edema, postoperative edema, posttraumatic edema, and chronic venous insufficiency.
Manual lymph drainage has been used for people with lymphedema, which involves swelling, generally in one of your legs or arms. The swelling is caused by lymph fluid that’s collected in the soft tissues, due to genetic disorders, injury, infection, cancer treatment, or surgery. Symptoms of lymphedema include:
Lymphedema can be treated with tight compression bandages or stockings, but manual lymph drainage can help enhance the benefits. If you experience lymphedema after a mastectomy or breast surgery, lymph drainage can help ease mild to moderate symptoms post-surgery.
Aside from lymphedema, manual lymphatic drain can help treat several health problems:
Rheumatoid arthritis: If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may experience poor lymph flow as the disease progresses. Along with tissue swelling, pain in the joints increases, joints lose their function, and the skin changes color. Lymph drainage massage can help ease these later-stage rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI): Chronic venous insufficiency is when the valves or walls of the veins that are in the legs don’t work correctly. This makes it hard for the blood to flow back to the heart from the legs. Manual lymph drainage can help increase the speed of blood flow in people with CVI. The therapy can make the femoral artery – the large artery in the thigh – perform better immediately after a session.
Fibromyalgia: This condition causes inflammation of the skin nerves, discoloration of the skin, and tissue swelling. MLD has been shown to be better than connective tissue massage in treating depression, stiffness, and improving quality of life for those living with fibromyalgia.
Dr. Sara Velez, a Certified Lymphedema Therapist from the Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy, starts with an initial evaluation to determine the most appropriate and effective therapy. This can include the following techniques: