What is MLD?

MLD is a light, skin stretching massage that helps promote the movement of lymphatic fluid out of the affected limb. It should not be confused with a traditional massage given at a spa. It is specifically focused on the lymph vessels to help the flow of lymphatic fluid. Treatment is applied to the unaffected areas first, to open the lymphatic pathways, making it possible for the fluid to move out of the affected area.

Deep breathing techniques call diaphragmatic breathing are usually done at the beginning and end of a treatment session to help open the deep lymphatic pathways. It’s not only relaxing, but it helps increase movement of fluid toward the heart.   

A Certified Lymphedema Therapist (CLT) who has been specially trained in MLD should perform this therapy. There are contraindications to CDT, so it is important that the clinician be properly trained. This therapy moves large amounts of fluid throughout the body, and if a patient has CHF for example, care should be taken when deciding the treatment plan.


Once complete decongestion is achieved, it will be essential for the patient to continue MLD on their own. This will help maintain open pathways to encourage lymphatic flow. Teaching patients self MLD is an important step in getting them independent to manage their lymphedema throughout their life.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic Breathing