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Manual Lymph Drainage Massage
 
What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage (MLD)

      Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is the part of lymph edema treatment that patients usually refer to as "massage."  Some therapists prefer to call it "manipulation" to distinguish it from the more usual sort of massage done to relieve muscle tightness, or simply for relaxation at a spa. 

      The manipulation involved in MLD uses very light pressure to stimulate the lymph vessels that lie just beneath the skin. Since these vessels are small and thin, firm pressurein any one area can actually shut them down momentarily, so the gentleness of the pressure is essential. Some therapists visualize this process as pushing the lymph fluid in the desired direction, while others see it as directing the flow by pulling the skin slightly ahead of the lymph flow. Either way, MLD is an important technique for moving lymph fluid out of the congested area and back into circulation in the center of the body. 

      The direction and order of MLD manipulation is as important as the gentle stroke. First the areas of the body where nodes are concentrated (neck, axilla, or groin) are stimulated in order to ready them to receive more fluid. Then the therapist begins, close to the nodes, moving fluid toward them with slow and rhythmic strokes. The massage continues with the therapist's hands moving farther away from the cleared nodes by degrees, but always directing the fluid back toward them. 

      For a therapist, every patient is a new challenge. The length, condition and location of surgical scars, the amount and position of any fibrotic (hard) areas, the condition of the skin, the number and location of lymph nodes that were removed, and the extent of cancer treatment each individual received is taken into account to determine the most efficient route for directing the lymph fluid.  

 
The MLD Massage:

      Lymph fluid cannot move through hardened (fibrotic) areas, whether the fibrosis was caused by surgery, radiation, or the lymph edema itself. If you have areas of fibrosis blocking lymph flow, your therapist will begin with a deeper massage designed to break up the hardness over time. 

      Then the gentler MLD massage can begin, with some instruction in deep, abdominal breathing, followed by special motions to clear the nodes in your neck and axilla or groin (depending on where the therapist plans to move the lymph fluid.) Your therapist will then proceed with the massage pattern, moving to your chest, shoulder, arm, back and side. Your part in it all is to relax, breathe deeply – and don't worry if you fall asleep!

 
After MLD Treatment:

      When you first begin MLD, you may find it hard to believe that the kitten-petting gentle strokes of the massage can have any positive effect at all. In fact, it may seem like hocus-pocus and a waste of your time. But most patients are pleasantly surprised at the quick response of their body to this external means of moving the fluid trapped inside. 

      When stagnant lymph fluid is successfully moved back into circulation in your body, the result is that more fluid is available to be processed by your kidneys, so you may experience an urgent need to urinate following MLD. You'll want to be sure to use the bathroom before heading for home. 

      Occasionally, MLD that moves a lot of fluid can result in feelings of nausea or a deep aching. It is usually a passing effect and leaves no lasting problems, but do let your therapist know if you develop any unusual symptoms so your treatment can be adjusted. 

 
 
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