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Manual Lymph Drainage, An Untold Story of Remarkable Benefits

Jun 29, 2017 09:45AM
by Gay Lee Gulbrandson
The world of personal detox would benefit from greater use of Dr. Vodder Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) to address soft tissue inflammation or swelling, also known as edema. Edema has many causes, some quite visible as in advanced lymphedema, or barely discernable as in physical traumas, post surgery, inflammatory diseases, systemic disorders and more. Experts in the field, called lymphologists, identify as many as 60 pathologies that benefit from MLD treatment, including Lyme disease, Bell’s palsy, surgery scars, migraine, MS, Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome, acne, most skin ulcers, surgical wounds and many more, according to the research of Drs. H. Weissleder and M. Foldi.

One example is the case of a 10-year-old boy who was hit by a car while riding his bicycle in Toronto, Canada, injuring his face. After one week including five MLD treatments, the only remaining sign of injury was a single red mark on his cheek, as noted in a case study by a Dr. Vodder School International therapist.

A recent report analyzing the results of three major studies of orthopedic injuries and tissue trauma found that the standard treatment of ice, compression, and elevation were greatly enhanced adding MLD, according to the works of T. Majewski-Schrage and K. Snyder.

Dr. Vodder’s MLD is a precise technique done topically with no pressure into the skin. The light rhythmical strokes increase the rate and strength of lymphangion contractions (the tiny segmented sections of lymph vessels). Lymph flow increases as excess fluid in the skin is taken up by initial lymph vessels (ILVs), reducing edema, the buildup of fluid, toxins, cellular debris and proteins in the skin.

Consider the case of a frail 90-year-old woman who fell inside her home in Houston, in 2013. Facial bruising was extensive, severe and painful. A recent graduate of Dr. Vodder Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD), managed a two-week intensive treatment of MLD on the patient. Within 10 days, the painful soft tissue injury was reduced to just one inflamed mark.

This remarkably effective MLD is an obscure, but gentle, modality that can be learned in as little as two weeks. Easy to perform with tiny movements, called strokes, and complex repeating sequences for each area of the body that gently move the skin in the direction of lymph flow. MLD strokes can be almost imperceptible, and require no physical strength or large motions, as in traditional sports or orthopedic massage.

In another case, an attractive aging woman scheduled a facelift (rhytidectomy). Having informed her surgeon that she wanted MLD post-op to speed her recovery, she had four sessions of MLD resulting in return to work within five days of her surgery, fully presentable, as revealed in a case study from the Dr. Vodder School International.

Recent studies show that MLD can even prevent breast cancer-related lymphedema (BCRL), a debilitating and life-long swelling condition affecting the arm or torso, according to studies by A. Zimmerman and L. Zhang. Lymphedema, which is largely ignored or untreated in nearly 10 million Americans, is not fully addressed by Medicare or traditional health insurance. Those who develop lymphedema of the lower body or extremities (legs, feet) have been shown to greatly benefit from MLD, according to a consensus document of the International Society of Lymphology.

MLD was invented by a Danish couple, Emil and Estrid Vodder, both doctors of physical therapy, in the 1930s. They compiled a systematic series of precise movements. The gentle, rhythmic, pumping movements working in the direction of lymph flow of the skin produce rapid results, especially with skin conditions, hematomas, varicose veins and leg ulcers. The Dr. Vodder School International is now headquartered in Austria and trains therapists from around the world. MLD therapists almost always report that their training was life-changing, challenging and lead to a newly productive and profitable career.

Gay Lee Gulbrandson, CLT-LANA, is an author, instructor and therapist specializing in MLD and lymphedema. She resides in the San Francisco area, and is affiliated with the Dr. Vodder School International. To contact her, call 510-295-7141 or email [email protected]

Potomac Massage Training Institute (PMTI) is offering training on MLD, taught by a Dr. Vodder School instructor at 8:30 a.m to 5:30 p.m. from July 21 to 25. CEUs available. All Dr. Vodder MLD classes are considered postgraduate. For more information, contact [email protected] or visit To locate a certified MLD therapist, visit


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