* Lymphedema is a condition that occurs when the ability of the lymphatic system to transport lymph is compromised resulting in the abnormal accumulation of fluid and proteins in the tissues. It can be classified as either primary or secondary. An abnormality in the lymphatic system that is either congenital or hereditary is termed "primary." Secondary lymphedema is the result of a known event which causes mechanical damage to the lymphatic system. 

When NOT to Have MLD

  • Acute infections/inflammatory illnesses

  • Serious circulatory problems such as thrombosis

When to Have MLD

  • Lymphedema (both Primary and Secondary) *

Benefits of MLD

  • Decreases edema (swelling)
  • Enhances the action of the immune system

MLD is a series of light, rhythmic maneuvers which increases the flow of excess fluids from the tissues.  MLD is sometimes referred to as a massage, but its strokes are much softer than traditional massage.  The goal of MLD is to increase the movement of the lymphatic fluid. In situations where the lymphatic pathways have been compromised or blocked, MLD treatments re-route the lymph fluid and gently move it into areas with healthy lymph vessels where the lymph fluid can drain normally.  MLD is often used post-surgically to decrease swelling, bruising, scarring, and pain.  It speeds up the healing process by removing fluids and cellular debris thus  allowing the blood to circulate more freely and nourish the tissues.  Because the strokes used are very gentle and light, MLD soothes the nervous system and, thereby, decreases pain and creates a feeling of relaxation.  


The lymphatic system is responsible for carrying excess fluid, proteins, bacteria, and waste materials from the tissues, thus cleansing the tissues of debris.  Once these particles enter the lymphatic system they are called lymph.  The lymph is transported to lymph nodes where it is cleansed and filtered and then it is returned to the blood stream.  The lymphatic system plays an important role in the body’s defense against infection.

What is Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) Therapy?

The Lymphatic System

  • Sinus congestion
  • Post-mastectomy edema
  • Neck pain/whiplash
  • Minimizes scar formation
  • Reduces pain

Zuther JE. Lymphedema Management: The Comprehensive Guide for Practitioners.  New York: Thieme Medical Publishers, Inc.; 2005

  • Pre- and post-plastic surgery
  • Sluggish immune system
  • Promotes deep relaxation
  • Speeds healing of injuries

The Dr. Vodder School’s certification program is a four-week, 160-hour program in Manual Lymph Drainage and Combined Decongestive Therapy.  Students learn the anatomy and physiology of the lymph vessel system, therapeutic applications of MLD, pathologies, bandaging, and MLD treatments for Lymphedema.  Students must take an oral, written, and practical exam to demonstrate competence in techniques, treatment, and bandaging.  Certification is obtained after successfully completing the examinations. 

Requirements for Certification in MLD and CDT

  • Untreated, malignant tumors
  • Non-infected inflammatory conditions such as sprains, strains and muscle tears
  • Decreases scar tissue

Common causes of secondary lymphedema include surgery, radiation, trauma, infection, malignant tumors, immobility, and chronic venous insufficiencies. The highest incidence of lymphedema in the US is observed in patients who have undergone breast cancer surgery. There are precautions that can be taken to avoid the development of lymphedema. More information about this can be found by contacting the National Lymphedema Network at www.lymphnet.org.

  • Fluid retention
  • Improves skin health

~~ For more information, contact the Dr. Vodder School North America at: www.vodderschool.com or 250-598-9862

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Dermatological conditions


  • Constipation

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