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Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD): What is it and how does it work?


Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a type of massage that focuses on your lymphatic system. The lymphatic network covers your whole body, transporting white blood cells and filtering internal waste. With MLD, we focus on your lymph nodes and regions, encouraging fluid to flow naturally through your lymphatic vessels, encouraging the removal of waste fluid out of the body.

We use it to reduce swelling, support your immune system and simply to just relax and reduce stress. It’s a very
common treatment following surgery, so your doctor might recommend MLD as part of your recovery.
 Whether you’re recovering from surgery or not, at Movement Matters we always start with a one-and-a-half-hour consultation (unless you are post-surgery and have been given guidance from your surgeon about supporting your recovery), including massage treatment.

This consultation helps us either determine whether MLD could be useful in your treatment or, if you’ve been referred by
your doctor, to ensure we can give you the best treatment possible. If you'd like to learn more, contact us, keep reading, or click on a link below to jump to a section:

How does manual lymphatic drainage work?

Lymph is a near-clear white fluid that runs through your body, transporting white blood cells to where they’re needed, protecting your body, while whisking away bacteria to your lymph nodes, protecting you from infection.

Sometimes, we need to give your lymphatic system - comprising nodes, vessels and ducts - a helping hand. It can build
up after surgery, you might sugar lymphedema or you might have swelling. MLD is a massage therapy that keeps the 
lymph flowing.

We focus on three key lymphatic regions - the neck, armpits and groin - and the vessels or pathways between them. Our aim is to release lymphatic tension, and get that lymph flowing.

What does manual lymphatic drainage feel like?

MLD is quite rhythmical and very relaxing. It’s a relatively gentle massage, and it’ll feel like a release. On a comfort
scale of one to 10 - where one is like a feather and 10 is quite painful - we aim for a one or a two.


Ruth McNulty, founder of Movement Matters, says: “MLD is so relaxing. Some people fall asleep during MLD therapy
because it’s so calming. Some people talk all the way through.”


We’ll always have a conversation beforehand, too, to explain what we’ll do and what areas we’ll focus on.


How does manual lymphatic drainage work?
What does manual lymphatic drainage feel like?
Who is manual lymphatic drainage for?

Who is manual lymphatic drainage for?

MLD can be for people who:

  • Keep getting ill

  • Always feel tired

  • Have sinus congestion in their face (sinusitis)

  • Have had surgery recovery or cosmetic surgery recovery (eg breast surgery, liposuction etc)

  • Are recovering from injury

  • Lymphedema


It’s safe during pregnancy, too, as long as there are no signs of blood clots and you’ve had permission from your midwife. We use a different technique in pregnancy massage, but the general approach is the same.


After MLD massage, it is important to drink lots of water. And if you can, go for a light walk to help support the movement of the lymph out of the body.

How effective is manual lymphatic drainage?

For treating issues like lymphedema, and reducing swelling post-surgery or while recovering from an injury, MLD can be very effective, and quickly. However, long-term effectiveness depends on you and what we’re trying to resolve.

Our advice is to come for therapy whenever you need or want it, to ensure you’re moving as freely and comfortably as possible.

In general, though, you’re likely to feel very relaxed, immediately!

How effective is manual lymphatic drainage

What can I do next? 

Manual lymphatic drainage is one of many massage techniques we use at Movement Matters. You can’t find out about them all on our treatments page, and we’re always happy to talk through any questions you might have about MLD or any other technique.

When you’re ready, get in touch with us to book an appointment. We’ll ask you to complete a form, so we can understand any underlying health concerns, and then carry out an initial assessment in person, lasting one and a half hours. We’ll assess your posture before looking at any issues you have, and working out what could be causing them.


If you would like to find out more or book your first meeting, please get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

What can I do next? 
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