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Manual Lymphatic Drainage, Vodder Technique


Nearly a century ago, Emil Vodder, M.D., tapped into the body’s natural healing reservoir, the immune system, with his Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) techniques. While the fascination with the Fountain of Youth began with Ponce de León, today many people turn to MLD to release the Fountain of Youth—better known as the lymphatic system—within.

Vodder’s gentle, stretch-like techniques performed on the surface of the skin were refined and researched throughout the years. MLD earned honors from both the spa-and-beauty and medical industries. It continues to rise in popularity among physicians, especially plastic surgeons.

MLD’s acceptance by the medical community is largely due to research studies. In a study conducted by Laurie Casas, M.D., and Patricia Depoli, M.D., the question of whether or not MLD produces significant outcomes for post-surgery patients. Half the group was given MLD and the other half was not. The evidence points to this conclusion, the authors noted: “We see complete resolution of postoperative edema, bruising and fibrosis within 9-18 months in non-MLD patients. Those given MLD healed within six weeks to three months, significantly shortening postoperative recovery.”

With all the benefits of MLD, it’s understandable why the modality is growing in interest from surgeons. The typical side effects of post-op surgery can be significantly reduced with MLD, minimizing downtime and discomfort.

“The surgical patient, in particular, benefits largely from manual lymphatic drainage,” says cosmetic surgeon Bart Rademaker, M.D. “In these situations, the normal homeostasis is upset through anesthesia or tissue injury, and the normal channels to remove excessive toxins or waste are overwhelmed." 


“Effective manual lymphatic drainage definitely improves surgical outcomes and speed of recovery,” he adds.

The study represented 13 different cosmetic-surgery procedures.

Benefits of MLD:

Lymphatic drainage massage can benefit people who experience:

  • lymphedema 

  • fibromyalgia

  • swelling 

  • edema

  • skin disorders 

  • fatigue

  • insomnia 

  • stress 

  • digestive problems 

  • arthritis 

  • migraine episodes

After surgery, including liposuction, manual lymphatic drainage is a vital aspect of recovery.

MLD for cosmetic-surgery patients:

  • Bruising reduction. Cells transported by the lymph system are moved away 10 times faster with MLD. Bruises heal in a fraction of the time, allowing clients the ability to resume activities of daily living, without having to wear sunglasses for months to hide bruises.

  • Edema reduction. MLD rereroutes lymph fluid to collateral and viable pathways untouched by surgery to allow for accelerated drainage, as opposed to the slow trickle of tissue fluids in the operative site.

  • Pain management. As pressure of lymph fluid decreases around nerves, pain and discomfort are relieved and require less pain medication.

  • Scar-tissue prevention and fibrosis reduction. Lymph fluid left to build up below incisions or sitting in interstitial space can solidify, causing the formation of scar tissue and fibrotic tissue. These tissues are often felt as ball-like substances below the skin surface. MLD prevents lymph fluid buildup and solidification, for a seamless scar.

  • Infection prevention. Postsurgical MLD is important when considering that stagnating lymph fluid can become infectious material and warrant artificial drain insertion, which is painful, costly and time consuming.

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