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Techniques of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD®)
The very gentle technique of MLD is a key component for prevention
and treatment of lymphedema. MLD requires time and repetition, yet, when properly applied, it is very powerful in its effect. MLD increases the volume of lymph flow, and with careful manual technique, can redirect flow around obstructed areas, preventing or reducing swelling and returning healthy skin. Proper care of lymphedema using MLD can help flush tissues of waste, and prevent incidences of cellulitis.

Emil Vodder, Ph.D., and his wife Estrid, natives of Denmark, developed Manual Lymph Drainage in the 1930s in France. The precise technique is a result of extensive research conducted by medical doctors and research scientists to understand the structure and function of the lymphatic system and the causes of edema.

The lymphatic system consists of a network of delicate capillary-like vessels that parallel the venous capillaries. These initial lymph vessels join to form larger vessels, continuing to parallel the veins, and traveling from the superficial layers of the skin, to deeper tissue. Lymph vessels are segmented, separated by one-way valves. The walls of the lymph vessels have stretch receptors, which are stimulated to propel the lymph fluid as it accumulates, much like the peristaltic action of the intestines. The lymphatic system is designed to process a normal daily volume of fluid (averaging about 2 liters in adults) but the system is very resilient and can carry up to 10 times its normal volume when need arises from injury or infection.
Techniques of Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD®)


It is important to understand that lymph vessels do not have a central pump the way arteries have the pumping action of the heart. Lymph vessels are called to action, to transport lymph fluid, by direct stimulation to vessels in the form of stretching. In healthy tissue, stretching occurs both from surrounding muscle movement, and from small accumulations of local fluid. The valves are triggered, and lymph flows sufficiently to maintain fluid balance. In compromised tissue, the lymphatic system is unable to keep up with the demand to move fluid. The technique of MLD is precisely designed to encourage the pumping action and therefore the removal of lymph fluid, by increasing the stretching stimulus.