Usually, when people hear about Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Massage they think it’s only for individuals who have lymphedema. While its reputation as a form of medical massage therapy isn’t undeserved, Lymphatic Drainage has recently become a technique of choice among a variety of massage lovers due to its many benefits.
What is manual lymphatic drainage massage?
MLD is a specialized massage type that gently assists the lymphatic system in maintaining the body’s fluid balance, blood circulation, and immune mechanisms. The system’s network of vessels and nodes contains lymph, a mixture of water, proteins, immune system components, waste products, and other remnants of cell metabolism. Lymph nodes, which filter out the debris, are found throughout the body, with especially large groups of them in the neck, armpits, and groin. These major collections of lymph nodes ensure that the lymph passes through as many nodes as possible before it returns to the circulatory system.
During a lymph drainage massage, a specially-trained massage therapist uses a series of gliding, compressing, stretching, and cupping motions over the client’s body. The light rhythmic movements, applied without massage oil, stimulate the lymphatic system without compressing the vessels – allowing lymph to move easily through the tissues and lymph nodes. MLD follows a specific sequence over the body so lymph isn’t trapped anywhere, making sure every area is treated with care.
The history of lymphatic drainage massage
MLD originated in the 1930s when the Danish husband and wife team of Emil and Estrid Vodder developed the strokes and sequence of what they called Lymphology. It caught on quickly in France and became a recommended treatment in the medical community for lymphedema resulting from chemotherapy and radiation for cancer. There are numerous studies and articles documenting its effectiveness.
As MLD became more well-known, offshoots and modifications of the original Vodder technique were developed, providing clients with more options. In the 1970s, German professors Michael and Etelka Foeldi built a clinic to treat patients and educate therapists. At his Arizona school for Lymph Drainage Therapy (LDT), French physician Bruno Chikly expanded the techniques to address more than the lymphatic system.
Why get a lymphatic drainage massage?
Today, men and women incorporate lymphatic drainage massage into their skincare and wellness routines given its detoxification and esthetic benefits. MLD proponents say the massage technique is effective for pain relief, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, skin conditions (such as acne and rosacea), cellulite, allergies, headaches, and a long list of other issues. It’s also being used following cosmetic surgery to reduce swelling and flush byproducts of anesthesia out of the body. MLD has become a popular spa treatment for skin care, managing season allergies, detoxification, jet lag, general stress reduction, and there is even a specific type of MLD devoted to facial rejuvenation.
Is manual lymphatic drainage right for me?
You may be wondering whether MLD is right for you, and why you would choose lymph drainage over a more traditional massage. Of course, conventional massage like a Swedish massage or deep tissue massage is a supreme experience for your muscles, joints, nervous system, and attitude. Deciding to receive a lymphatic drainage massage goes a step further. You may want to cleanse your body’s tissues during the change of seasons, after an illness or injury, or following a particularly stressful time in your life. MLD’s focus on detox and purification revitalizes your energy, leaving you feeling ready to face anything. To see the more than 100 locations throughout the U.S. where Zeel’s network of massage therapists is available, see our list of available locations for “massage near me”.
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Robin Jillson has been studying and teaching massage and bodywork since 1990. Starting with a certification in Foot Reflexology, Robin graduated from New York’s Swedish Institute, and pursued further studies in bodywork and energy work. She discovered a passion for teaching and eventually became an instructor and Director of Education for Healing Hands Institute in Westwood, New Jersey. In her spare time, Robin wrote a massage therapy curriculum published by Pearson Education, performed textbook review for Elsevier Publishing, and consulted on adult education topics. She is licensed as a massage therapist in both New York and Florida.