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Lymphatic Massage

Lymphatic Drainage Massage at HTC

What is Lymphatic Massage?

Is ‘ Manual Lymphatic Drainage’ (MLD)

Lymphatic drainage is sometimes termed ‘massage’ because it involves hand movements on the skin but it is very different from therapeutic or aromatherapy massage which can cause friction to the skin and increase the blood supply. This, in turn, causes more lymph to be produced.

There are two types of lymphatic drainage that may be used to treat lymphoedema – manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) and simple lymphatic drainage (SLD). 

Lymphatic drainage techniques provide regular stimulation of the lymph vessels under the skin. It encourages them to work harder and find new pathways to drain away the lymph using a milking or siphoning effect to move lymph away from the swollen area. Treatment with MLD or SLD may be particularly helpful if you have swelling of your face, neck, upper arm, thigh, breast, trunk, or far lower limbs. 

Manual lymphatic drainage

Manual lymph drainage (MLD) is a very special type of skin massage designed to stimulate the lymphatic system. The hand movements and sequences are adapted for each person.

Simple lymphatic drainage

You may be taught a very simple form of skin massage which you can perform yourself each day. This is simple lymphatic drainage. The massage is based on the more complex technique of MLD and takes about 20 minutes. You should try to perform it at the same time each day so that your lymphatic system is stimulated regularly. You can carry out the massage with or without wearing any prescribed hosiery or bandages on your affected limb. The swollen area is never massaged when using this technique. Many people find it both convenient and relaxing to perform the massage at bedtime. 

If you wish, your lymphoedema therapist can teach a relative or friend to do the massage for you. This can be particularly helpful if you need a massage to your back. If your partner is involved, a bonus may be that it increases your feeling of wellbeing.

Is Lymphatic Massage suitable for you?

Lymphatic massage/drainage It must be carried out by a qualified therapist. Ask our centre’s clinical practitioners (Physiotherapists, Podiatrists & Osteopaths) if you are unsure.

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Are there any contraindications for having MLD?

There are certain times when the Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is not recommended or contraindicated (a condition that makes a particular treatment/procedure inadvisable). These include:

  • Whilst undergoing active cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. It is best to wait until such treatment has been completed (usually between 4-6 weeks).
  • During an acute infection (cellulitis) when the affected area is red, inflamed, more swollen, and painful. Antibiotics are a priority at such times. Once the acute phase is over (after a few days of taking antibiotics, and the pain, inflammation has reduced), MLD can be re-introduced
  • A recent history of thrombosis (DVT) or tuberculosis
  • Untreated acute heart problems and renal failure. Once treatment has been initiated and the medical staff is in agreement, MLD can be introduced if appropriate to do so.

It is very important that your trained practitioner is made aware and kept up-to-date with your current medical condition at every visit to ensure that it is safe to perform MLD. So, remember to inform him or her of any changes to your medical condition and general health before each session. This also includes any changes to medication.

Conditions requiring precautions in regards to MLD

  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Hypotension
  • Oedema caused by cardiac decompensation should not be drained manually, as this may exacerbate such decompensation
  • Diabetes
  • The first trimester of pregnancy or complications with pregnancy **in an uncomplicated /normal pregnancy treatments are very useful throughout the pregnancy and very helpful for reducing the swelling on legs and breasts

What happens at your first appointment?

A general medical history will be requested on your first treatment to ensure your therapist has a comprehensive background relating to your health and your appropriateness for this type of therapy. You will also be asked to sign a consent form for treatment. This information will (as with all therapy records) of course be kept securely stored and confidential at HTC.

Some level of disrobing may be required and covering material may be provided should they be required by you.

As with all therapies at HTC the client is advised that they are entitled to bring a chaperone with them into their respective treatments should they so wish.

The therapist will then use their hands to apply gentle statice or moving pressure to the treatment area. You may feel areas of minor transient discomfort during the treatment, but generally, the experience should be relatively pain-free.

The therapist may recommend a course of treatment.

For information relating to how this type of treatment can interact with other treatments such as Physiotherapy, Osteopathy, Podiatry, Chiropody, Massage, Sports Therapy, and Mindfulness & Wellbeing therapy speak to one of our therapy professionals