What is MLD?
MLD is a light, skin stretching massage that helps promote the movement of lymphatic fluid out of the swollen limb. It should not be confused with a traditional massage you may receive at a spa. MLD is specifically focused on the lymph vessels to help the flow of lymphatic fluid. Therapy is applied to your unaffected areas first, making it possible for the fluid to move out of the affected area, or as we say, “decongest.” MLD helps open the remaining functioning lymph collectors and move protein and fluid into them, as well as to help speed up lymph fluid flow through the lymphatics.
Deep breathing techniques call diaphragmatic breathing are usually done at the beginning and end of a therapy session to help open your deep lymphatic pathways. It’s not only relaxing, but it helps increase movement of fluid toward your heart. Laughing naturally causes diaphragmatic breathing, so go ahead; laugh as often as you can! It’ll help move your lymphatic fluid and can help release stress, anxiety, and even depression.
A Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) who has been specially trained in MLD should perform this therapy. There are medical reasons that MLD might not be used, called contraindications, so it’s important to see your CLT and discuss any changes in your medical history before you start therapy each time.
Once you have completed Phase I of Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and have entered into the Maintenance phase, you will be in charge of your MLD! That’s right, Self-MLD is a large part of maintaining your reduced limb size. It is important to continue MLD on your own to help keep your lymph vessels working as best as they can. Your CLT will teach you how to perform Self-MLD and how often.