Manual Lymphatic Drainage 

What is manual lymphatic drainage?

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) is a technique that manually moves lymph through the body. Sessions are also started face up opening 2 sets of lymph nodes in the neck. Then the thoracic duct is opened up in the abdominal area. 

The direction that the session goes depends on why you’re getting and manual lymphatic drainage treatment. Generally the health side is worked on first. The main lymph nodes in the area are always opened up first. Then the focused area of the body is broken into multiple sections. Each section is worked on at least 5-7 times working top down. Once the whole section of the body has had the lymph capillaries opened. Then that section of the body is reworked from bottom up 2x’s. The main lymph nodes are reworked again and the same process is started again on the unhealthy side. 

What does manual lymphatic drainage feel like?

The touch is very light and gentle. The therapist is only lightly stretching the skin. That’s because the lymph capillaries sit right under the skin. There shouldn’t be any manipulation of muscles, ligaments and tendons. The strokes that are used are a combination of half circles and pumps. From the neck down strokes move up towards the heart. Neck up, strokes always move down towards the heart. 

How long does a session take?


These are just some general guidelines for about how long each section of the body take 

  • Face 30 minutes 
  • Arms 20 minutes 
  • Legs 60 minutes 

Depending what area(s) are bothering you this will give you an idea about how long of a session you’ll need to book. 

Does the whole body need to be worked on?

The short answer is no. The beautiful thing about the work is that just working on one section of the body will help to drain lymphatic fluid in other areas as well. You can have a “full body” treatment. But this is different from a full body massage. Most of the MLD is done face up. There are shorter sections done face down and back of the head, upper back, and back of the legs. And depending on the length of the session and what’s going on with your lymphatic flow you may or may not have face down work done. 

I hope this blog post has helped to understand what to expect from a manual lymphatic drainage treatment.

Jessica Weagle is an Alumni of The Academy of Lymphatic Studies (Vodder Technique)