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What’s So Good About MLD?

Having been a practitioner and teacher of MLD for the last 12 years I can confidently say that even though it is a highly specialised technique that can be used to treat many injuries and pathologies, there are very few massage therapists that include it as part of their toolbox of regular massage techniques. For some time I have pondered the ‘why’ of this and have come to the conclusion that many MT’s simply don’t really know the full depth of what MLD can achieve for both themselves and their clients. Added to this, quite often their initial training has been insufficient to give them the confidence to successfully apply the technique.

The reality is that MLD is a multi dimensional discipline. So first of all what does MLD do for our clients? To list them briefly here they include:

  • It can be used as part of a post sporting and post injury RICE protocol when clients are unable to receive deep tissue or other massage techniques that would otherwise be contraindicated.
  • It can be included as a valuable ‘add in’ to the massage treatment plan, and can be used as a prequel to other techniques such a myofascial tension technique and deep tissue. With the use of MLD we are able to gently and specifically engage the fascia and the fluid, simultaneously releasing the tissues of the lymphatic-extracellular fluid and fascial planes and in one movement negate many of the negative side effects of purely fascial work which can lead to bruising and inflammation.
  • It can be used pre and post surgery as a way to prepare tissues for incision and also to promote healing and tissue health post surgery preventing infection and other post surgical complications.
  • MLD not only stimulates the vital functions of the skin, tissues and internal organs, but also serves to eliminate cellular waste and stimulate the parasympathetic relaxation response inhibiting muscle tonus and pain.
  • It can be performed as a preventative technique that bolsters our bodies’ ability to rejuvenate and resist all types of stress. This results in the speeding up of the fluid’s movement throughout the lymphatic system, filtering toxins through the major organs, enabling the increase of lymphocyte transportation and production.

A common list of massage room pathologies that would benefit from MLD includes: Fluid retention, lymphoedema, sinusitis, hay fever, pain relief and anti inflammatory, IBS and fibromyalgia, post sporting, carpel tunnel, golfers and tennis elbow, bruising and oedema.

Now, lets look at what it does for the therapist?

Most importantly it takes a load off! When delivered in a relaxed, confident and precise manner MLD as a modality allows the practitioner to work at a much lighter and slower pace.

The pressure used to perform MLD has been compared to the pressure used to roll an uncooked egg across a bench, slowly, in other words it does not require much pressure at all. This in itself is a bonus to the massage therapist who can often spend a full day delivering treatments that require more pressure intensive techniques and as we all know this can take its toll by the end of a working week. The beauty of MLD is that it is all about moving fluid, and moving fluid requires deft touch, gentle manipulations of the surface of the skin and super slow movements, as the reality is that the lymphatic system moves SLOWLY! As a result your body moves in a more relaxed and easy manner, allowing you to find some rhythm in your work and softness for your wrists, hands and arms.

If you are reading this and you don’t know anything about this amazing modality get curious! Do some research and find out exactly how the lymphatic system works, and why it is such an important add in to your massage modality list. There are so many clients who could benefit from this type of therapy and so many MT’s who could benefit as well. You owe it to yourselves to find out how this works and make it happen for you and your clients.


BIO: Michelle Vassallo, director of Rhythm Massage Development and fellow therapist, has passionately designed various massage workshops with a focus on making them comprehensive and relevant to therapists. Her teaching specialities are Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Research Literacy and Self Care for Massage Therapists. A dedicated educator with many years of experience in the field of bodywork, she guarantees a fun and dynamic learning journey for her students. Her blog can be found at:

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