What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?


“Lymph Drainage is a healthy, natural, painless and absolutely effective method which gives a new basis to life, health and beauty.” Dr. Emil Vodder 1936

 Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) comprises of specialised, rhythmic, and extremely gentle pumping techniques applied directly to the skin. The technique has been proven to stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluid in the body.

In 1929 Dr Emil Vodder and his wife Estrid, a naturopath, moved to the French Riviera and established a clinic where they started treating patients. Vodder palpated swollen lymph nodes in the cervical region in patients suffering from acne, migraines or sinus problems. He had the vision that the real cause of these pathologies was congestion in the swollen “lymph glands”, or lymph nodes as wecall them today. The careful, circling, pumping movements of the skin that he developed helped to resolve the problems presented by these patients even though it was considered a taboo to work on swollen lymph nodes at that time. These circular movements form the basis of the MLD strokes used today.

Increased lymph flow helps the body deal with infections and damage more effectively. The movements are also known to calm the nervous system and help inhibit the passage of pain

MLD has been shown to be useful in the care of patients with the following conditions:

  • Arm or leg oedema following treatment for breast or abdominal cancer
  • Primary lymmphoedema
  • Migraines, stress headaches etc.
  • Chronic sinusitis
  • Digestive disorders and constipation
  • Swelling in Pregnancy
  • Post cosmetic surgery
  • CRPS (Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Venous stasis ulceration
  • Dermatological conditions such as acne and rosacea.
  • Adhesive capsulitis
  • Arthritic conditions
  • Acute whiplash
  • Meniere’s Syndrome

MLD can be effectively used to reduce pain and swelling following recent trauma such as:

  • Soft tissue injuries, especially where there s a lot of swelling and bruising.
  • Recent fractures 
  • Joint replacements (especially helpful in reducing pain and swelling post knee replacement.)

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a profoundly relaxin,g but powerful treatment. It should only be carried out by a fully qualified practitioner who has completed specialised training in this area. MLD Ireland is the professional body of qualified therapists in Ireland.

See Useful Links and Articles for further information on the evidence base for MLD.

This video will give you an overview of the lymphatic system. Since it was made however, new research has shown that the lymphatic system picks up 90% of the fluid which is unused by the tissues rather than the 10% it was previously thought to carry!

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