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What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)?

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) is a very specialized manual therapy technique that focuses on improving lymphatic fluid flow throughout the body. It involves gentle, rhythmic massage movements that stimulate the lymphatic system, which is responsible for removing excess fluids and waste products from the body. By applying very specific hand motions, specific amounts of pressure, and proper speed of application, MLD aims to reduce swelling, alleviate congestion, and enhance lymphatic circulation. This gentle and non-invasive approach can be particularly beneficial for individuals with lymphedema, post-surgical swelling, or other conditions that impede proper lymphatic drainage. MLD promotes overall well-being by supporting the body’s natural detoxification processes, reducing inflammation, and boosting the immune system.

MLD is a component of Complete decongestive therapy (CDT), which is specialized therapy designed to manage lymphedema. Lymphedema is a condition characterized by the accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissues, resulting in swelling and discomfort. CDT involves a combination of four components: manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), compression therapy, exercise, and skin care. CDT is considered the Gold Standard treatment for Lymphedema.

Qualified therapists have received comprehensive training in MLD, equipping them with the knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective treatments. Their expertise helps ensure that you receive the best possible care. It is ideal to look for someone credentialed as a Certified Lymphedema Therapist. This can be Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and massage therapists. MLD involves specific movements and techniques that must be performed correctly to avoid any potential risks or complications. Qualified therapists adhere to proper protocols, prioritizing your safety throughout the treatment process.A qualified therapist will assess your specific needs and tailor the MLD sessions accordingly. They understand the importance of personalizing the treatment to address your unique condition, ensuring optimal results.

MLD may not be suitable for individuals with certain medical conditions, such as acute infections, deep vein thrombosis, congestive heart failure, active cancer, kidney failure, or untreated hypertension. People with these conditions should consult with their healthcare provider before undergoing MLD.

Jennifer Spencer, PT, DLT, CLT, OCS is the owner of Magic City Physical Therapy in Birmingham, AL. She is a Certified Lymphedema Therapist, Pelvic Floor Therapist, and Board Certified in Orthopedics.

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