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Manual lymph drainage (MLD) is used to treat lymphedema. It is a light manual technique of bodywork (massage) that increases the activity of the lymph vessels with mechanical stretching of the skin and lymph collectors. It redirects the lymph fluid flow via tissue channels and lymph vessels around the blocked areas into the thoracic lymph vessels that eventually drain into the venous system.

MLD is used specifically in the treatment of lymphedema, a condition characterized by fluid retention at key points in the body. A doctor should be consulted before making an appointment for manual lymph drainage, as this type of massage can be contraindicated for certain medical conditions, most particularly cancer.

In a manual lymph drainage session, the therapist uses a variety of massage strokes to gently stimulate the lymphatic system.  For patients with lymphadema, the focus will be on the affected region, but the whole body will be treated so that circulation is increased. Special attention is often paid to the lymph nodes, with the therapist looking for early signs of blockage.