Manual Lymph Drainage: a form of massage designed to assist the function of the lymphatic system by the application of slow, light, and repetitive strokes that help move lymph fluid through the system of vessels and nodes.

Research Spotlight

The databases often return hundreds of medical studies for a single wellness approach. This section summarizes a sampling of five studies – providing just a taste of the available research. These Spotlights were not selected because they are the most favorable or the most recent, but to provide you an introduction to the more extensive research you’ll uncover searching the four databases found in the “Research” section of this site.

  • Korean study: MLD Helps Reduce Patient Stress
    A small, preliminary study (Korea, 2014) indicated that manual lymph drainage performed on the neck in subjects with psychological stress resulted in brain changes: an energy shift in the alpha frequency band from the left hemisphere to the right hemisphere, resulting in greater left-side activation, which could be related to the positive emotional state observed post-treatment. Very preliminary findings suggest that frontal EEG asymmetry was attenuated after MLD.
    Access this Manual Lymph Drainage study
  • Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) Significantly Reduced Hand Edema and Increased Function in Patients with Systemic Sclerosis
    A five-week study of sclerosis patients using the Vodder MLD technique showed significant improvement at the end of treatment in hand edema and function – and perception of quality of life compared to the control group.
    Access this Manual Lymph Drainage study
  • Manual Lymph Drainage Works in Preventing Lymphedema
    A clinical trial (120 women) who had surgery for breast cancer that involved dissection of lymph nodes demonstrated that early physiotherapy, including manual lymph drainage, massage of scar tissue and shoulder exercises, was significantly effective in preventing secondary lymphedema.
    Access this Manual Lymph Drainage study
  • Taiwan study: MLD Helps Mitigate Swelling in Breast Cancer Patients
    A systematic review by Taipei Medical University (2013, 10 randomized clinical trials, 566 patients), found that 7/10 studies assessed manual lymph drainage’s reduction in arm volume for patients with breast-cancer-related lymphedema. But the researchers concluded that the clinical/statistical inconsistencies between the studies confounded their evaluation of MLD’s effect, arguing that current RCTS do not support the use of MLD as a lymphedema treatment.
    Access this Manual Lymph Drainage study
  • Adding Manual Lymph Drainage Massage to Compression Therapy Beneficial to Cancer-Related Lymphedema
    A systematic review of the medical evidence by the University of Alberta (Canada) concluded that for breast cancer patients, a statistically significant benefit comes from adding manual lymph drainage massage to compression therapy for upper extremity lymphedema volume.
    Access this Manual Lymph Drainage study