What Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage & How Does It Help?

The human body is amazingly resistant to toxins. Despite the build-up of these unwanted toxins over time, the lymphatic system works constantly to eradicate them, so we don’t get sick.

The lymphatic system stimulates the production of lymph, a yellowish fluid that is responsible for immunizing the body against infection or disease. So, by creating and transporting lymph throughout the network of tissues and organs, the body’s immune system can grow stronger.

But when the lymphatic system isn’t functioning properly, it can, unfortunately, develop problems of even more serious health conditions than common sicknesses. This is when manual lymphatic drainage can help.

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

Beautician making lymphatic drainage face massage

A specialized treatment technique, manual lymphatic drainage was designed to restore functionality to the body’s lymphatic system and immune system. While it is often thought of as a style of massage, manual lymphatic drainage is actually very different to the rigorous kneading and deep pressure of the more traditional forms of manual therapy.

Manual lymphatic drainage uses only light touches with gentle pressure to move excess lymph fluid from tissue and back to lymphatic vessels. This will allow organs to expel toxins from the body more effectively. And as it’s much gentler than massage, it feels more like brushing on the skin.

The treatment is aimed at reducing swelling by improving lymph fluid uptake, increasing lymphatic contraction, maintaining proper blood circulation, and developing new lymph receptors. And studies have shown that treatments of Manual Lymphatic Drainage can reduce the volume of swelling from 25% to 63%.

How Does Manual Lymphatic Drainage Help?

The four types of manual lymphatic drainage are Vodder, Földi, Casley-Smith, and Leduc, which were all named after their original developers. Each one of these techniques was based on the same original principles of Manual lymphatic drainage and can often help with the following health conditions.

Immune System

As the function of the lymph nodes under the arms, throat, groin, and around the breasts is to cleanse toxins from the blood. By targeting these lymph nodes, this treatment stimulates blood circulation and the flow of fluid in the lymphatic system which detoxifies the body and enhances the immune system.

Lymphedema

Most commonly caused by breast cancer or an unfortunate side effect after cancer treatment, Lymphedema can also be caused by a genetic disorder, injury, or other infection. Lymphedema is triggered when the body collects and stores excess lymph fluid in the soft tissue in the arms or legs. While Lymphedema is often treated using tight compression stockings or bandages, manual lymphatic drainage can also enhance effectiveness by reducing swelling. It can also help ease post-surgery symptoms of lymphedema after mastectomy.

‌Rheumatoid Arthritis

Poor lymph flow is a possible symptom of late-stage rheumatoid arthritis, which causes increased joint pain and tissue swelling. Manual lymphatic drainage can be used to help ease these painful symptoms as the disease progresses.  

‌Chronic venous insufficiency

CVI reduces the functionality of the veins in the legs like the femoral artery, which has a negative effect on the blood flowing back up to the heart. Both the speed and volume of blood flow can be increased after a session of manual lymphatic drainage.

‌Fibromyalgia

Manual lymphatic drainage has also been effective for treating fibromyalgia symptoms like tissue swelling, nerve inflammation, and skin discoloration. And for people with fibromyalgia, this would certainly improve their quality of life.

Precautions

While this non-invasive treatment of manual therapy is largely considered safe, it should be avoided for those with specific health conditions. This includes heart problems, blood clots, emphysema, or staphylococcal skin infections, or if there is any inflammation, infection, or cancer in the area. So, if you’re considering manual lymphatic drainage, it’s a good idea to discuss it with your health professional first.