Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a gentle and rhythmic massage technique that focuses on improving the function of the lymphatic system. It is soothing and calming and can provide pain relief and stress reduction. It can also decrease swelling as it facilitates movement of lymphatic fluid from the body’s tissues into the lymphatic vessels. It was developed in the 1930’s by Drs. Estrid and Emil Vodder in Europe and since then has been well researched to show benefits to both healthy individuals and people with specific health challenges.
What is the lymphatic system?
The lymphatic system is responsible for picking up excess and waste substances from the body. It is made up of vessels, ducts and between 600 – 700 lymph nodes. The lymphatic system returns water, fat and proteins back to the circulatory system, manages fluid balance in the tissues and circulates lymphocytes and other defense cells in the body, picking up viruses and bacteria and moving them out of the body.
The heart is the pump for the circulatory system, but the lymphatic system does not have a pump. It relies on skeletal muscle contraction (activity), deep breathing, peristaltic action of the intestines and manual lymph drainage to circulate the fluid. The lymphatic system can be damaged by surgery, radiation, disease or trauma which can result in an inefficient system. When the the lymphatic system is damaged or overwhelmed with a heavy load it gets congested. Waste material is not removed as efficiently and new healthy nutrients are prevented from coming in.
When the lymphatic system is working well we have energy, clear and radiant skin, and strong defense against illness. When the system is congested or sluggish we have less energy, more swelling, sinus congestion and more susceptibility to colds and infection. Congestion might also show up in the skin with puffy eyes, a dull and lackluster complexion, acne, eczema and rosacea.
How can manual lymph drainage help?
Manual lymph drainage increases the lymph flow and decongests the tissue in the body by stretching the skin in a specific direction, following the drainage pathways in the body. This movement stimulates smooth muscle contraction that moves the lymph forward. The strokes are always light, slow, monotonous and rhythmical, which promotes drainage and relieves congestion.
MLD sedates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is our fight or flight response so that the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) can turn on. Our PNS helps us rest and digest and is all about restoration and rejuvenation. I think we all need more of that! If reducing stress is on your list of things to do MLD is a great way of helping out.
As if that’s not enough, manual lymph drainage also has a pain relieving effect. This happens because of the slow, repetitive movement of the strokes and how this information is received by the nerve endings in the body. Pain receptors (nociceptors) are slow and tonic whereas mechanoreceptors (receptors that respond to touch, vibration and pressure) are fast and phasic. MLD stimulates the mechanoreceptors and they override the nociceptors because they beat them to the nerve ending.
What conditions can benefit from manual lymph drainage?
- Fluid retention and swelling
- Tension and stress
- Sinus congestion
- Post surgical edema
- Aging and sun damaged skin
- Before and after dermabrasion, laser resurfacing and chemical peels
- Before and after subcision, plastic / elective surgery, cosmetic surgery
- Edema resulting from sprains, muscle injury and sports injuries
- Headaches and migraines
- Puffy eyes, bags under eyes, dry eyes, tired eyes (from computer use)
Are there contraindications for manual lymph drainage?
Anyone experiencing these conditions should not receive MLD:
- Acute inflammation with infection
- Acute allergic reactions – after 24 hours is okay
- Heart edema (congestive heart failure)
- Recent thrombosis – less than 6 months
What services does Estrella offer with manual lymph drainage?
We offer both 60 and 90 minute manual lymph drainage sessions which work with the whole body. We also offer manual lymph drainage for the head and neck only which is great for skin conditions (dull complexion, acne, rosacea), sinus congestion, eye puffiness and pre and post cosmetic surgery.
Our Detox Facial is a 90 minute service consisting of the signature Estrella facial and 30 minutes of head and neck manual lymph drainage. MLD for the head and neck can be added to any of the Estrella facials as a 30 minute add-on.
Whether you are healthy and wanting to support your body or working through a health challenge we hope you’ll give your lymphatic system some love and come in for some manual lymph drainage!