By Nancy Barrett
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is one of the oldest, most often preformed treatment of the body and cleansing of tissue spaces. In the early 1930’s, Dr. Emil Vodder created a special series of light massage-like movements that included massaging lightly over cervical lymph nodes. In doing this, he found that it cured a range of issues. In his studies Dr. Vodder noted 60 different aliments and conditions for which this special massage can treat. These include migraine and chronic headaches, constipation, common acne and acne rosacea, tinnitus, eczema, whiplash, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid and osteo arthritis, sinus congestion and tendonitis just to name a few. It is also an excellent therapeutic method to rejuvenate beauty and reduce puffiness, fine lines and wrinkles. By the 1950’s, Dr, Vodder, along with his wife, Estrid, began educating the European world on lymphology and began teaching others about the benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage or MLD.
Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a type of specialized massage where light, rhythmical hand movements are used to apply pressure and sequence to the lymphatic system. This special type of massage reduces swelling from lymphoedema. The focal point of this massage is to move fluid from the swollen area into an area where the lymphatic system is working normally. Within the body, the lymphatic system is a complex one which assimilates with other bodily systems, such as the circulatory system and urinary system. The lymphatic system plays a huge role in immunity, aids with the removal of waste at the cellular level and facilitates the transport of nutrients and oxygen to cells.
Within the human body, damage to the lymph transport system, which includes lymph vessels or lymph nodes, can lead to oedema better known as lymphoedema. This condition can result in massively swollen limbs and has an enormous effect on mobility and self-esteem. It also causes discomfort and pain. There are two basic types of lymphoedema- primary and secondary. Primary lymphoedema is believed to be hereditary and caused by issues within the lymph transport system at birth. Insufficient vessels or weak vessels may cause difficulty dealing with the load; therefore, affecting lower limbs beginning with the feet and ankles. Secondary lymphoedema can occur due to damage to the lymphatic system. This can occur when nodes are removed during surgery or after cancer treatments, such as radiation. Both types of lymphoedema are quite progressive and can result in swelling of the limbs, trunk, or face. A big part in managing these types of lymphoedema is MLD. The ongoing use of MLD helps keep the lymph nodes moving and stimulated. This encourages the body to open up other pathways and in doing so this activates the body’s natural backstop in the event of tissue overload. MLD therapists can assist in redirecting the lymph issue by bypassing where the nodes have been removed and taking fluid to the next available nodes within the system.
There are many other conditions that benefit from the use of Manual Lymphatic Drainage. Due to its ability to move fluids, it not only decongests tissue but also has an analgesic effect on the pain and touch receptors of the central nervous system. The light, repetitive touch of MLD stimulates the touch receptors, whose signals overtake those sent out by the pain receptors of the body. Due to this shared pathway, MLD, in practice, does have an analgesic effect, which alleviates pain.
Furthermore, MLD aids in boosting the immune system by speeding up the lymphatic system, which is often impeded by lymph stagnation. In addition, MLD is also beneficial treatment for post-traumatic oedema after, distortion, fracture, and bruising or surgical procedures. It is also useful to complement mobilization through physical therapy. After an operation or injury, the part of the body struck by trauma struggles in dealing with a lot of excess fluids. MLD can move the excess fluid to other parts of the body, where the undamaged lymphatic system can deal with it. This will reduce the congestion of the local lymph nodes. As the congestion is cleared away the swelling and pain is reduced and the comfort level of the patient is increased. This in turn speeds up healing.
MLD is also safe to use throughout pregnancy, for both mother and child. As long as pre-eclampsia is not an issue, MLD can be used to treat puffy ankles or eyes, and tired or swollen legs. It can also assist in relieving pregnancy induced carpal tunnel and making it manageable. During the laboring stage of pregnancy, MLD can be used as a calming tool due to its soporific effect.
As a relaxation method, MLD serves as a stress reliever. The hustle and bustle of everyday life can cause an enormous amount of stress. During the one-hour time frame used for this massage and its soporific effect, MLD helps patients encounter a meditative state induced by massage and reflexology. Children are also welcome to receive MLD treatments. In children, this massage helps increase a child’s run-down immune system and can also assist in relieving constipation.
It is quite evident that the benefits of MLD increase a patient’s wellbeing. Its use not only improves certain diagnosed conditions, but also provides relaxation in a patient’s daily stress-filled lifestyle.
For the most part, lymphatic drainage massage is safe. However, there are a few conditions where it may be contraindicated. These conditions include: Acute Inflammation, Malignant Tumors, Thrombosis, Major Heart Conditions and those with a Cancer Diagnosis. Patients with these conditions should consult their physician prior to receiving a lymphatic drainage massage.
For any further information or to schedule an appointment, please contact Nancy or Mercedes at The Peace Within Spa & Wellness Center ~(201) 988-5767.