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What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage? (…and what it isn’t)

Updated: Dec 2, 2023

Lymph? What is that?

Lymph is a special fluid that circulates throughout our entire body using the lymphatic system. It’s like our body’s own built-in sewer system. The entire system is responsible for collecting and moving the waste from cells and tissues, maintaining proper fluid levels, transporting fats and proteins, and assisting in fighting off infections.

When our lymph system is thrown off, it could cause:

*Swelling/bloating throughout the body


*Unexplained muscle/joint pain, especially upon waking

*Increased sensitivity to allergens

*Skin irritation, rashes, patchiness. breakouts

*Brain fog


*Autoimmune disorders

So, what’s manual lymphatic drainage?

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a light, rhythmic treatment that helps promote and stimulate the movement of lymphatic fluid through the vessels and towards the corresponding lymph nodes.

MLD should not be confused with a traditional massage, whereas this technique uses just enough pressure as it takes to stretch the skin.

First, opening techniques are applied to the lymph nodes (drainage sites). Some of these sites include the neck, arm pits, and groin areas. Then, various drainage strokes are applied, starting close to the node and gradually moving outward, making it possible for the fluid to move in the appropriate direction.

Who can receive MLD?

Anyone experiencing swelling, injuries, chronic pain conditions, fatigue, skin concerns, unknown food sensitivities, allergy issues, a recent surgical procedure, or a condition that has caused your lymph system to be sluggish can receive this treatment. If you have unexplained swelling or pain, this treatment may be a good start to addressing your concerns. As long as you don’t have a heart condition, blood clots, current infection, or kidney issues, it’s safe!


MLD is NOT deep tissue massage or breaking up scar tissue/fibrosis. Our lymph vessels are right under the skin, so any pressure deeper than that closes them off and is counterproductive.

MLD should NOT be painful. Unless the area is EXTREMELY sensitive, the light touch of this treatment should not be uncomfortable at all. The strokes calm the nervous system, so by the end of the session, you should feel a heightened sense of relaxation.

MLD is NOT forcibly pushing fluid out of surgical incisions or opening incision wounds to fluid out of the body after a surgical procedure. This is an extremely unsafe, unnecessary, and painful procedure that highly increases the chance for infection. Not to mention, extracting fluid from the body is out of a Licensed Massage Therapist's scope of practice. Let your body do what it's supposed to do NATURALLY. It's a process...just be patient!

Interested in giving your body the jump start that it needs? Contact Holistic Bodywork and Wellness today for more information!

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