The Difference Between Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Massage Therapy

Manual Lymphatic Drainage(MLD) and massage therapy are two very different manual treatment modalities. The only similarity is that both have techniques that require the therapist to put their hands on the client’s skin. The word “massage” originates from the Greek word “massain” which means to knead. This describes techniques such as effleurage, long gliding strokes, and petrissage, kneading strokes. Pressure is also applied to reach underlying muscle tissue.

The pressure used when giving a MLD session is of much lower intensity. The intent is to effect lymphatic structures located in the subcutaneous tissues. To do this, strokes are used to stretch the skin and then a directional stroke to send lymphatic fluid toward the regional lymph nodes. This technique should be sufficient enough to stretch the subcutaneous tissue against the fascia but not manipulate the muscle tissue in that area. The amount of pressure needed could be compared to the pressure you would use to stroke a newborn’s head.

The purpose for MLD is to increase the rate at which the lymphatic system pumps. The accelerated drainage promotes pain control and the light pressure is soothing and sedative. In a case of Lymphedema, the lymph is rerouted around blocked areas to centrally located healthy vessels to relieve chronic swelling. This increase of drainage is also beneficial for detoxification. The lymph nodes produce lymphocytes which are white blood cells. Their job is to attack foreign invaders. The antibodies produced travel through the body by way of lymph fluid to assist the immune system. Both MLD and massage therapy are beneficial treatments. Discuss with your massage therapist which treatment will bring the desired result you need.

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