Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Combined Decongestive Therapy

Manual lymphatic drainage is a specialized massage technique (taught in Canada by Dr. Vodder School International) which systematically stimulates your lymphatic system to reduce congestion and swelling. The lymphatic system helps to filter excess fluid and return it to your circulatory system.  At Lakeside Natural Health Centre, manual lymphatic drainage is provided by a registered massage therapist, Jennifer Hyland.

In research, we see studies that show the benefits of manual lymphatic drainage:

  • For patients with Lymphedema – as part of a program of combined decongestive therapy
  • after knee replacement surgery
  • after liposuction
  • after cancer surgeries
  • And for other conditions not requiring surgery such as Fibromyalgia, concussions, headaches, and sinus pain.  More studies are always being investigated

It is normal to have swelling after an injury, during an illness, or after surgery. Swelling and inflammation help your body to start the healing process. When manual lymphatic drainage helps to remove excess fluid it isn’t interfering – it’s helping you to move on to the next stage. It stimulates your natural ability to remove excess fluid, and that fluid also contains waste products and inflammatory chemicals. Patients with sinus congestion or who still feel like their ears are plugged after an infection find that manual lymphatic drainage relieves discomfort and helps their body process any excess fluids.  After an injury or surgery, as the swelling resolves, your body can lay down healthy collagen and elastin fibers to heal your wounds and repair or replace any blood vessels, nerves and skin cells that were damaged. A faster healing process with less scar tissue leaves you with an improved appearance post-surgery, less pain, and increased ability to return to your normal activities

Post Surgery

As a Registered Massage Therapist and Vodder Certified in Manual Lymphatic Drainage/Combined Decongestive Therapy, I believe that patients benefit from MLD after surgery because we are able to gently help the body to continue it’s natural healing process. Even before we had research demonstrating the benefits of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) for surgical recovery, therapists who practice MLD used the techniques successfully to help their patients recover. We get referrals from plastic surgeons who know that their patients are dedicated to making sure that their surgery has the best results possible.

Lymphedema, Lipedema, and Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Lymphedema is a chronic swelling caused by your body’s inability to get fluid and waste back to your circulatory system. Having lymph fluid and even a temporary swollen lymph node (like the ones just under your ear that fill up when you get sick) are normal. In a healthy person (don’t you hate that phrase?), blood pushes fluid through the arteries, and from the capillary beds into your interstitial spaces. From there, your lymphatics suck up fluid like a straw, and filter it through your lymph nodes (trapping pathogens like a cold virus), while sending clean fluids back to your veins to be turned into oxygenated blood. Everyone’s lymphatic system has a limit to the amount of fluid it can carry. When your body pushes too much fluid into an area (like after an injury) you have normal, healthy, temporary swelling. But if your lymphatic system doesn’t have enough capacity to carry fluid away from an area, you end up with chronic swelling: lymphedema.

Lymphedema is caused by either an innate defect in your lymphatic system, or when lymph nodes have been removed or damaged (like in cancer treatment) or when your lymphatic system is overtaxed for too long: chronic venous insufficiency, Lipedema, or obesity. Any chronic swelling should be checked out by your medical team. As a Vodder-Certified Lymphedema Therapist, I am trained to assess lymphedema using a series of measurement, and to discuss appropriate therapies with you and your doctor. When indicated, I treat patients using manual lymphatic drainage (slow rhythmic massage that increases the action of your lymphatic system) and bandaging to bring down swelling and return your limbs to their normal size. Lymphedema treatment is complex, so if you have questions, please make an appointment to discuss therapy with me. After the initial decongestive phase, patients will need to be measured for a custom compression garment to maintain their results and prevent any side effects.


  1. J. R. Ebert et. al. Randomized Trial Investigating the Efficacy of Manual Lymphatic Drainage to Improve Early Outcome After Total Knee Arthroplasty. Arch Phys Med Rehab. Nov. 2013. Vol. 94 (11). pp 2103-11
  2. I. Masson, B. de Oliveira, A. Fernanda Perez Machado et. al. Manual lymphatic drainage and therapeutic ultrasound in liposuction and lipoabdominoplasty post-operative period. Indian J Plast Surg. Jan-Apr 2014. Vol. 47 (1). pp. 70–76. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075221/
  3. https://vodderschool.com/bibliography_of_research_articles