Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a type of gentle massage which is intended by proponents to encourage the natural drainage of the lymph from the tissues space body. The lymph system depends on intrinsic contractions of the smooth muscle cells in the walls of lymph vessels (peristalsis) and the movement of skeletal muscles to propel lymph through the vessels to lymph nodes and then beyond the lymph nodes to the lymph ducts which return lymph to the cardiovascular system. Manual lymph drainage uses a specific amount of pressure (less than 9 ounces per square inch) and rhythmic circular movements to stimulate lymph flow.
It is now recognized as a primary tool in lymphedema management. Therapists can today receive certification through special classes conducted by various organizations specializing in MLD. Scientific studies show mixed results regarding the efficacy of the method in treating lymphedema and further studies are needed.
In several unique studies on animals, MLDT (Manual lymphatic drainage treatment) has been shown to increase lymph uptake and thoracic duct flow, but the same evidence has not yet been shown for human subjects.
Nancy is a member of the National Lymphedema Network