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Lymphatic drainage





The term 'lymphatic drainage' appeared in the reference books in the early twentieth century, but only as late as in the thirties a Danish doctor of philosophy and masseur - Emil Vodder (1896-1986) defined that concept. While working with patients suffering from chronic colds he found that this treatment was effective in reducing the swelling of the lymph nodes which accompanied this disease. From that moment this method began to develop.

The effectiveness of the treatment of patients suffering from lymphedema was proved by the limb volume analysis method developed by Professor Kuhnke Bonn (since 1974 it has recognized and reimbursed by the German health insurance funds).

In the course of time, the MDL was enriched with special tricks used in the treatment of edema by compression.


Since the establishment of the first school of manual lymphatic drainage in Germany in 1969, tens of thousands of therapists have been educated. This method is one of the best-documented methods of manual therapy and is widely applied in European medical centers.

The term "drainage" is not accidental, it is supposed to distinguish this method from all other forms of massage, both in terms of the objectives of this therapy and the actual performance of its procedures.


MDL consists in a delicate deformation of the superficial tissues, performed with a variable pressure by using specific techniques.

The specificity of the edema therapy consists in the fact that the drainage covers not only the area of ​​the swelling, but almost the entire body. The treatment begins with the neck region at the junction of the main lymphatic trunks with the venous system, then it proceeds to the trunk parts free from swelling adjacent to the swollen limb, and finally the area of the ​​edema. The procedure is absolutely painless for the patient.

To insure the efficiency and safety of the procedures, the person performing the drainage has to possess relevant education in the drainage techniques and knowledge of the anatomy and physiology of the lymphatic system. If the procedure is performed adequately, it will increase the transport capacity of the lymphatic system, reducing thereby  the swelling. It also relaxes the tissues and reduces discomfort.


The function of the lymphatic system is to transport fluid and other substances (multimolecular proteins, hormones, vitamins, etc.) from the intercellular space into the venous system, cleansing the body of toxins, products of metabolism, viruses and bacteria, and improving the defense-immune response. A proper stimulation of the lymphatic system by manual lymphatic drainage improves its functioning and supports in particular the transport function.

In the case of certain swellings, manual lymphatic drainage is combined with:

  • Techniques used in the treatment of lymphedema - for reducing the ultrafiltrate, content of protein (mainly glycosaminoglycans) and  release of the fibrous tissue in the area of ​​the edema.
  •  Mobilization of postoperative and post-radiation scars
  •  Special techniques, e.g. superficial and deep drainage of the abdomen

MDL procedures are usually combined with compression therapy. This maintains the effects of the drainage by increasing the re-absorption of fluids at the vascular level. This can take the form of bandaging, compression textiles or intermittent pneumatic compression.



  • Lymphatic edema (primary and secondary)
  •  Post-traumatic edema
  •  Venous edema
  •  Lipid edema
  •  Edema resulting from inactivity
  •  Edema associated with arterial circulation disorders
  •  Chronic inflammatory bacterial edema
  •  Idiopathic edema



  •  Venous thrombosis
  •  Wounds and acute skin rashes
  •  Active untreated or metastatic cancer
  •  Swelling caused by circulation failure, renal or intestinal diseases
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