Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

MLD – The Vodder Technique

What is Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) ?

MLD is a highly specialised skin technique developed in Europe in the 1930’s by Dr. Emil Vodder. The technique has an intensely relaxing effect masking the strength of the treatment itself. The method is a very gentle, ‘light touch’ form of massage using light, rhythmical, very precise hand movements, pressures, and sequences which encourage the lymph fluid to flow freely around the body.

Generally, it is performed without oil and works at a skin level (only 0.3 mm depth) to influence the direction and speed of lymphatic flow, re-directing if necessary. It also increases the venous flow without increasing arterial blood flow.

A treatment commences at the neck to clear the area and ‘make space’ for lymph to be brought there. The next parts of the sequence will depend entirely on why MLD is being performed and the particular needs of the individual.

What is the Lymphatic System?

The lymphatic system is a network of tubes throughout the body that drains fluid (called lymph) from tissues and empties it back into the bloodstream. The lymphatic system consists of lymphatic vessels, lymph fluid and lymphatic tissue/organs such as lymph nodes, tonsils, thymus, spleen and Peyer’s patches.

The main role of the lymphatic system includes:

  • Managing the fluid levels in the body
  • Filtering out bacteria and other body toxins
  • Producing and storing lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells which fight off pathogens)
  • Absorbing and transporting fatty acids and fats to the circulatory system
  • Protecting our bodies from pathogens (e.g. bacteria and viruses)

The lymphatic system is a very important part of our immune system thatprotects us from disease.

Unlike the circulation of the blood, the lymphatic system has no pumping mechanism. Instead it relies, for example, on muscular movement and breathing to assist the flow of the lymph fluid. Unfortunately the lymphatic system can become very sluggish (due to our sedentary lifestyles and high fat/high salt diets) leading to puffiness, bloating, constant tiredness, low immunity and frequent infections.

Manual lymphatic drainage increases the flow of the lymph fluid through the lymph nodes encouraging the production of lymphocytes and hence aiding in the prevention of disease.

What are the benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) ?

  • Deep relaxation: As it is a very light massage, utilizing repetitive and continuous hand movements, it has a calming effect on the autonomic nervous system which Vodder explains as “a change from a sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state” stressing the importance of the lightness of touch so as not to trigger a release of histamines in the tissue which would otherwise overstimulate. The effect is to induce a state of deep relaxation in the body allowing even the walls of vessels and bowels to be relaxed.
  • Analgesic: based on the Gate Theory the nocireceptors (pain receptors) and mechanoreceptors (touch receptors) of the central nervous system share a synapse or pathway. A simplified explanation could be that the touch receptors are stimulated by the light, repetitive touch of MLD, these signals overtake or crowd out those sent by the pain receptors. MLD will also remove from cells the chemicals associated with the central nervous systems pain response.
  • Boosting the immune system: Lymph stagnation impedes the body’s immunological response so speeding up the workings of the lymphatic system must promote it. Certainly, people who are receiving MLD on a regular basis, report that they no longer pick up colds and sore throats as frequently as they may have done before having the treatment.

Prevention and Remedy to Chronic Conditions (see below):

  • Pain – joint swelling, muscular pain, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, migraine, chronic headaches
  • Skin – cellulite, aids in weight loss
  • Fluid retention – swollen feet and ankles (inc sprained ankles), puffy eyes or face
  • Respiratory conditions – sinusitis, nasal congestion, catarrh
  • Immune conditions – recurring colds & flues, recurring inflammation & infections, allergies, auto-immune disorders
  • Digestive conditions – chronic constipation, flatulence, bloating, Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Stress, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, lethargy

Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage is also used for:

  • Post plastic surgery (e.g. face, neck abdomen, thighs etc) – it reduces pain, bruising and swelling
  • Post operative inflammation (e.g. after liposuction etc) – it reduces inflammation, bruising and prevents scarring
  • Post traumatic events (e.g. accidents, sport injuries etc) – it reduces swelling, pain, bruising and inflammation
  • The prevention, treatment and control of lymphoedema (e.g. after breast- or prostate cancer)
  • The treatment of lipoedema and phleboedema

Benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage during Pregnancy

During the third trimester of pregnancy, some women can experience circulatory problems that often appear as:

  • Swollen Legs and/or feet
  • Oedemas
  • Cramps

Inadequate circulation can certainly create the uncomfortable sensation of tired and heavy legs. Poor circulation is the result of two main factors generating from poor blood return and water retention.

The first one, mechanic, is the result of the compression of the inferior vena cava (IVC) by the uterus that expands with the baby and compresses the main vein carrying the blood up from the legs. With the growth of your baby the compression increases and the normal blood return to you lower limbs decreases.

The second factor is hormonal and linked to the high concentration of oestrogen and relaxin secreted by your body during pregnancy. Indeed, these two hormones decrease the tonus of your veins.

As your veins become hypotonic and are compressed by your womb, it becomes more difficult for the blood to flow back to the upper body; thus it stagnates in the lower limbs longer. This, together with the water retention, causes your legs to swell and makes them feel heavy and tired. The circulatory disorders can sometimes continue after the pregnancy or can appear even without pregnancy.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is safe throughout a woman’s pregnancy – safe for mother and safe for baby. As well as not being detrimental, it is enhancing because it is congestion reducing. As long as pre-eclampsia is ruled out, MLD is the treatment of choice for puffy eyes, puffy ankles and tired, swollen legs in pregnancy. It can help make pregnancy induced carpal tunnel manageable, and is another good preparation for labour tool because of its calming and soporific effect.

Why suffer the pain when you can have a comfortable pregnancy?

Make An Appointment With our Manual Lymphatic Drainage Specialist today

Emma Purslow
Emma Purslow
11:25 05 Dec 17
This place has completely saved me! A classical musician, I was forced to pull out of a concert midway through due to unexplained loss of feeling in my arm. I managed to get through to the wonderful receptionist at 9 30pm on a Friday night, who set me up with an appointment at 1pm the next day. I am now having regular appointments with Keval, who not only diagnosed me at the first appointment, has me back playing and performing again but also calmed me down with his professionalism and reassurance. Would recommend without reserve!
Frankie Griggs
Frankie Griggs
14:00 22 Nov 17
I first visited Physio4Life in August after hurting my lower back. I rang in the morning and managed to get an appointment the same day. I saw Hugo who has helped so much! When I first went it hurt to walk and I could not bend my back at all without pain. I have seen Hugo 8 times now and my lower pain is so much better - I no longer have any pain. I have also just started Pilates with Stasia to strengthen my back which I have found really good. I would definitely recommend Physio4Life is anyone.
James Heaney
James Heaney
15:03 15 Nov 17
Cannot recommend this place highly enough. Did my back in due to bad posture at work, culminating in losing full mobility. Phoned on a Saturday and got an appointment early Monday morning. Was seen by Hugo and his level of service was outstanding. Very professional whilst being very friendly. Over 4 sessions gave me effective treatment with follow up exercises that have got me back to fighting form!
Sarah Wilson
Sarah Wilson
18:34 04 Nov 17
December 2016 I had a terrible fall and severely hurt my ankle, after xrays, boot and crutches for an extended period of time I did make a good recovery, however I re injured it shortly after, not by doing much I hasten too add. I found myself in incredible pain and back on crutches and completely out of action! James helped me with my ankle by doing tapping , physio and prescribing me with some exercises with a resistance bands. I also had a bunch of others to do. Very rapidly I was pain free then after a few more sessions the tapping was removed and my ankle was mostly functional, just rather stiff. Now I am a good ankle shape, I dont even think about it, the stiffness went and I am completely pain free!! I still do my exercises as I accept it is an injury I will have to manage. James is an extremely knowledgeable and gifted physio who specialises in knees, toes and ankles!!! Thank-you so much James! I am booking an overland trip to Africa now.
Makis Voultepsis
Makis Voultepsis
12:58 12 Oct 17
A friend recommended me Physio4Life for sever back pain that I started having in the end of July. I was treated by Victoria who diagnosed my condition as cauda equina syndrome and urged me to immediately go to A&E. Thanks to her timely diagnosis and the amazing treatment at the hospital I am still able to walk, as this condition can quickly leave someone paralyzed if it's not surgically treated. Victoria has been treating me for my post-surgery recovery even since and has helped me to steadily get stronger over time. Both her and Hugo who also treated me for a short period are extremely knowledgeable and caring, and will patiently explain all the rehabilitation exercises. Would definitely recommend going there!
Neil Arora
Neil Arora
20:01 25 Sep 17
Highly recommend both Victoria pitcher and Chris Hughes. Both are kind, understanding and knowledgeable physios who make you feel at ease and get to the bottom of the issue and seek to treat the cause. Future patients you are in good hands!!
Olivia Thorneycroft
Olivia Thorneycroft
13:11 17 Sep 17
I would highly recommend Physio 4 Life. I needed physio for tendonitis in my foot and Hugo has been great. His impressive knowledge, treatment and range of home strengthening exercises have helped my foot enormously and gave me back the confidence I had lost when I was injured. Thank you!
David Redmond
David Redmond
12:25 04 Sep 17
Hugo really helped me with my back. He fixed my initial problem and identified other areas for improvement and gave me the exercises that would help me. My back is now better (and still improving) than it was before my injury. I won't hesitate to go back with any other problem. Thanks.
Sofi Newsham
Sofi Newsham
07:02 08 Aug 17
I cannot speak highly enough of James. He's working so hard on fixing my running injury and getting me back to where I want to be. He's such a lovely, funny person who absolutely puts you at ease. The receptionists are also great, they remember who you are when you arrive and work efficiently. I would absolutely recommend anyone dealing with sports injury or looking for a recovery training plan go here.
Alexandra Phillips
Alexandra Phillips
10:54 06 Aug 17
I cannot recommend Physio4Life and Hugo highly enough! After several months of treatment following knee surgery, Hugo's attitude and confidence in my recovery made any slow progress that much easier to deal with. It was always a pleasure to be greeted by such a friendly reception team as well and, to be honest, I'm a little sad I'm back to full health and don't get to catch up with the great team there anymore!!
Simon Clothier
Simon Clothier
07:30 28 Jul 17
Twice weekly seshs here since March on an arduous recovery from challenging shoulder surgery. James is a fab and understanding physio, reception team (who always seem very happy & engaged) are superbly organised & highly efficient, quite the best I've experienced in the world of surgeries. Totally recommended.
Henry Bolton
Henry Bolton
15:57 12 Jul 17
James rehabilitated my ankle following a complex arthroscopy. His knowledge is really impressive, always knowing or quickly discovering the cause of pains and always ready with solutions. He was recommended by the surgeon and it is easy to see why. Now back long-distance running.
10:33 10 Jul 17
I cannot recommend this place enough! I had to be referred twice (back pain and then a very painful knee injury). Hugo took such good care of me and is such a cracking character that he made everything feel so easy and I was always confident in his approach and his treatment and recovery plan. Above all it was very effective! I have honestly never felt better in my life! Also the staff at reception is the nicest - they even remember people's names! Oh and there's free tea and coffee in reception 🙂 so now I'm pain free and it's all thanks to Hugo! Thank you!
Andreas Pichlkostner
Andreas Pichlkostner
15:49 27 Jun 17
Had a great experience with the Physio 4 Life team over the past year. Everyone was always friendly and helpful. A special thank you to Hugo, he did everything he could possibly do to resolve my plantar fasciitis problem. I'd highly recommend them!
Jaime Irurzun
Jaime Irurzun
10:51 21 Jun 17
I've had a great experience with Physio4Life. Their physiotherapist Hugo Chinchilla has solved my lower back pain within 5 sessions. An excellent and very friendly professional I'd definitely recommend to anyone.
Mikaela Austin (Alumni)
Mikaela Austin (Alumni)
10:02 12 May 17
James has been instrumental in making sure I return to play as soon as possible, being a professional netball athlete my feet are hugely important. James was able to diagnose various issues with my feet, and clearly explain how these could be modified with the orthotics he would mould for me. He went above and beyond to provide the best service possible and I am eternally grateful.
Karen Archer
Karen Archer
10:21 03 Mar 17
I use physio4life on two counts - James is a brilliant physiotherapist, knowledgeable, skilful (and humorous); and Dan runs an older persons' circuit training exercise class - great fun, and as accessible or challenging as you want to make it
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Massage Team

Some of the many pathologies that can benefit from MLD include: fibromyalgia, disorders associated with the head and neck (chronic sinusitis, migraines, whiplash), hypertension, stress, allergies, common acne and acne rosacea, constipation, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis, localized post-traumatic oedema, bruising, surgical procedures (useful to complement mobilization by physical therapy), and many more. MLD can be used to improve scar tissue and to reduce bruising after surgery or injury. It is an excellent therapy for rejuvenation as a beauty treatment and can reduce puffiness and fine lines and wrinkles.

Unfortunately, you will not be able to receive MLD treatment if you are suffering from the following:

  • Malignant tumour process
  • Acute infection
  • Cellulitis (skin infection)
  • Thrombosis
  • Cardiac decompensation
  • Deep venous thrombosis

Contact Physio4Life in Putney on 020 8704 5998

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