Manual Lymph Drainage

What is Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)?

Manual Lymph Drainage, sometimes called lymphatic massage, or lymph drainage massage, is a gentle manual treatment that stimulates the lymphatic system. It increases the return of lymph to the circulatory system. Lymphatic massage assists and accelerates the body’s natural process of draining water, proteins and used cellular components from the spaces between living cells.

How is Lymph Drainage Different than Massage?

MLD is referred to as lymphatic massage, but MLD is not the same as massage. Traditional massage includes kneading and manipulation of muscular tissue. In MLD, the lymphatic massage therapist focuses on the superficial lymphatic system. About 70% of the lymphatic system lies just millimeters under the skin’s surface, so there is little reason for “deep” massage.

Sam Reichgott, LMT is trained in Manual Lymph Drainage (Vodder Technique), certified by the Academy of Lymphatic Studies.

Who Should See A Lymphatic Massage Therapist?

MLD can be beneficial for a variety of conditions. People with the following conditions can benefit from MLD:

Post-Surgical Recovery

MLD is commonly recommended by plastic surgeons, to speed recovery after liposuction, tummy-tuck, BBL, face lift, and other cosmetic surgery. The area typically swells with body fluid after surgery, making the skin feel tight and painful. Unattended, this swelling can lead to fibrosis, and a bumpy or uneven feel to the skin. Manual Lymph Drainage reduces the swelling, providing immediate relief from pain and tightness, and it speeds up the healing process, too. Fibrosis can be prevented, and reduced.

Localized Edema

MLD reduces swelling, thereby reducing discomfort, and promoting healing.  Lymphatic massage works well after physical trauma that causes swelling. In addition, it’s effective for swelling from vigorous exercise, air travel, too much sitting, or venous insufficiency.

Migraine Headaches

Draining lymph from the cranial areas may reduce migraine symptoms. Further, lymphatic massage brings relaxation and improvement in quality of sleep.


MLD treatment has an analgesic effect, and is easily tolerated by fibromyalgia sufferers.


MLD reduces retained fluid, and promotes an improvement in skin appearance.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

A MLD treatment is very relaxing and can help relieve symptoms of CFS.

Seasonal Detoxification

Many enjoy MLD as a seasonal detoxification treatment. By-products of your body’s metabolic processes (“waste” products) return to the blood stream for natural elimination. When used at each change of season, a full-body MLD treatment can help you feel better all year long.

What to Expect in Your Lymphatic Massage Session

Your lymphatic massage therapist begins by discussing your medical history. Most importantly, we have to be sure that MLD will be safe and effective for you.

An MLD session begins with gentle stimulation of the lymphatic ducts and major lymph nodes. This opens the gates to increased lymphatic flow. The opening sequence may include light pressure near the shoulders, neck, and axial and inguinal lymph nodes, depending on the areas of concern. Your therapist may use light pressure on the abdomen. The areas addressed by your lymphatic massage therapist depend on your health and medical condition, always with safety and comfort in mind.

The session proceeds with specialized strokes that stimulate the collection and movement of lymphatic fluid. These strokes go no deeper than the skin. Depending on your treatment goals, work encompasses the arms, legs, neck, face, trunk, or a combination of these areas. Most people find the treatment very relaxing. Often, the client drifts into a light sleep during the session. 

In the case of post-surgical care, we often find areas where the excess fluid is beginning to harden. This is known as fibrosis, and is common after liposuction. In these cases, your therapist may employ some deeper compression techniques, to soften these areas. These added techniques can effectively reduce or completely eliminate the fibrotic areas.

Be sure to inquire about self-care between post-op appointments. Working together with your therapist, you’ll see a tremendous improvement over time.

Who Should NOT Receive Manual Lymph Drainage

MLD is generally safe, given the very light pressure used in the technique.
But in cases where increased lymphatic flow would be detrimental, MLD should be avoided.

People with the following conditions should not receive MLD:

  • Acute infections, including inflammation caused by bacteria, viruses, poisons or allergens
  • Renal failure
  • Cardiac edema – swelling caused by cardiac insufficiency or other major heart problems
  • Acute deep vein thrombosis (DVT), phlebitis
  • Acute bronchitis
  • Malignant tumors

Prior to treatment, your lymphatic massage therapist will discuss your medical history, and in the interest of safety, we will not perform MLD in the presence of any of the above conditions. In addition, we are not certified to treat clients with lymphedema. Please consult a medical professional for proper referral and treatment.