What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a very gentle treatment that improves the function of the lymphatic system throughout the body. MLD can be beneficial in treating:

  • post-surgical swelling

  • post-cancer treatment swelling

  • primary and secondary lymphedema

  • post-traumatic edema (e.g., sports injuries

  • migraine headaches

  • rheumatoid arthritis

  • Lyme disease

  • fibromyalgia

MLD is further used to promote general relaxation and for cleansing (detoxification) of the skin and superficial fascia. MLD is used to reroute the lymph flow from congested areas into healthy lymph vessels, which drain into the venous circulation thereby reducing swelling.


The flow and intention of an MLD session are very different from that of other bodywork. Only bare, dry hands are used so that the therapist can apply very light pressure to the skin, engaging it in a gentle dragging motion crucial to the effectiveness of this technique. It is gentle, and methodical in order to stimulate superficial lymphatic vessels throughout the body but especially those in extremities and abdomen. Strokes follow the direction of the lymph flow, usually toward the heart. This ultimately helps flush excess fluid from the lymphatic system, returning cleaned lymph back into the circulatory blood supply and removing waste products from the body.


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