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What is Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

The lymphatic network—a network of vessels besides arteries and veins– operates like a sanitation system for our body by getting rid of ‘waste’ or bacteria that can invade our body.

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a specific form of therapeutic tissue massage developed in 1932 that is gentle, non-invasive, and has a powerful effect on the body stimulating the lymphatic system. MLD can reduce swelling and improve circulation throughout the lymphatic system. At The Pain and Wellness Centre, we offer this kind of lymphatic tissue massage (that should not be confused with traditional massage).

Specially trained massage therapists will first apply therapy to the unaffected areas. This massage technique makes it easy for lymph fluid to move from the affected area to “decongest it.” A typical lymphatic massage session of the MLD can last for around 45 minutes or even more. About a third of the lymphatic massage therapy session will go on the affected limb.

Why MLD Matters

MLD therapy helps restore the movement of lymph fluid in the lymphatic system to ensure that all the lymph nodes drain properly. This type of massage uses light pressure and brings long-term benefits to the skin.

In a nutshell, here are some of the benefits of lymphatic drainage massage:

  • Treats Lymphedema: Lymphatic drainage massage can improve the circulation of the lymph fluid and reduce swelling.
  • Increases Immunity: Frequent lymphatic drainage massage boosts immunity, reducing the chances of contracting colds and viruses, since the purpose of the lymphatic system is to help the body by fighting off harmful infections and speeding up the recovery process.
  • Improves Skin Texture: Lymphatic drainage massage helps to reduce swelling, puffiness, and blotches on the skin and accelerates the healing of scars. It is possible that MLD breaks down toxins in the skin.
  • Facilitates Healing after a Surgery: Lymphatic drainage massage stimulates healing and tissue regeneration after surgery, detoxifying the body and reducing surgery-related swelling. 

Manual lymphatic drainage massage (MLD) is part of a treatment program called Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT), which is used to treat lymphedema. DLT includes:

  • Exercise
  • Skincare
  • Compression garments
  • Lymphatic drainage massage (MLD)

Who Benefits from Lymphatic Drainage Massage?

Here are some of the typical indications for manual lymphatic drainage.

  • Primary and secondary lymphedema
  • Acne, rosacea, sinusitis (without infection)
  • Poor circulation and swelling
  • Sports injuries, sprains and strain, sciatica, piriformis syndrome, chronic low back pain or strain, compartment syndrome
  • Colds, congestion, post-cold or flu congestion, and acute or chronic coughs
  • Shoulder/neck trauma, whiplash, tendinitis, possibly disc conditions (herniation, etc.)
  • Pre/post-surgery edema
  • Stress reduction and calming the nerves
  • Overall well-being and function of your immune system
  • Non-infected inflammatory conditions (e.g., sprains and strains)
  • Skin alterations or chronic injury: allergies, chronic eczema, chronic inflammation with excess protein in the loose connective tissue
  • Before or after surgery
  • After cancer surgery (commonly associated with removal of lymph nodes)
  • Swelling in pregnancy
  • Tissue damage
  • Burns and scars to name a few conditions. 

If you have a swollen limb, you must commit to an regular frequency of treatment for best results. Once the swelling is under control, a compression garment is obtained, and manual lymph drainage treatments are reduced in frequency. 

If you are interested in massage or Manual Lymph Drainage, please book a consult with one of our therapists today.

Importance of Post-Surgical Lymphatic Drainage Massage

After undergoing surgery, it is normal to experience a bit of swelling in the affected area. That’s because the body recognizes any surgical cut on the skin as an injury. The body responds to the injury by developing inflammation. Swelling is a stage of the healing process known as the inflammatory phase, during which thousands of cells move to the affected part of the body.  In most cases, the swelling would go away as healing occurs.

Greater swelling may occur with leg injuries /surgeries, because the legs are below the heart level, and the force of gravity will cause more fluid to move down the legs.

A post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage helps prevent swelling and speeds up the healing process.

To some extent, swelling is part of the body’s healing process. A cosmetic surgery, such as liposuction and tummy tucks will disrupt the lymphatic system’s natural pathways.

As a result, the operated body will swell because of extensive tissue and lymphatic vessels disruption. It may take between 2-3 months for the operated area to create new connections.

Adding a series of lymphatic drainage massages after cosmetic surgery can speed up the recovery process. It reduces swelling by reducing congestion in the body’s tissues.

Since the body is prone to infections after surgery, the lymphatic system needs to fight infections and this is where a post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage is essential.

Besides the risk of developing infections post surgery, there may be healing issues due to the swelling, which exerts pressure on incision lines.

Post-surgical lymphatic drainage massage also helps boost metabolism and immunity, improving skin elasticity, as surgery can result in fibrosis (scar tissue) or other health hazards. 

Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage after Liposuction

Liposuction is a popular plastic surgery, which involves the removal of excess fat from the body. It allows an individual to get slimmer without spending much time in the gym. During liposuction, a specialist will make small incisions on the fatty area to remove the excess fat. After the procedure, you’ll experience mild discomfort and some redness, bruises, and swelling in the affected area.

Liposuction can damage blood and lymphatic vessels and destroy cells and connective tissues. After liposuction, the body will treat the incision as an injury, resulting in cell inflammation, while the lymph fluid may accumulate in one area and cause bumps and lumps, especially when done in the abdominal section.

With proper post-treatment methods like lymphatic drainage massages, the incision will heal quickly with minimal scarring within a few weeks.

Benefits of MLD after Liposuction

Most plastic surgeons recommend MLD massage in the recovery phase after cosmetic liposuction. It helps decrease the recovery time and improves the results.

In summary, here are the advantages of the procedure.

  • Eliminates toxic substances from the body
  • Promotes healing of injuries and incisions made during the surgery
  • Facilitates lymph flow, which helps to reduce swelling
  • Improves the overall health after a successful surgery
  • Enhances the flow of lymphatic fluid in the lymphatic system
  • Aids the movement of protein and white blood cells to the blood
  • Reduces post-surgical fibrosis (scar formation) and swelling

Why Place Your Trust in Us?

Seeking MLD treatment from a professional massage therapist (RMT) at a certified massage therapy clinic comes with many benefits. 

At The Pain and Wellness Centre, we have registered massage therapists with special expertise and training in MLD, who take the time to figure out your issues to create a personalized treatment plan.

Our clinic in Vaughan also has experienced Chiropractors who can assess and provide various treatment and  exercise rehabilitation. You can rely on us for these services and more. 


Here are the most commonly asked questions about lymphatic drainage massage.

What should I expect during a massage session?

When you visit a massage therapy clinic for medical reasons, the therapists will evaluate your condition to identify and work on the areas that are concerning to you with the goal of helping ease your pain and improve the tension within your body.

Are there any side effects with massage?

Some of the side effects that you may experience sometimes after a massage include: muscle soreness, and fatigue. The after effects tend to be more pronounced during the first few weeks of therapy, and soreness typically reduces as an individual starts to adapt to the treatment, and the massage therapist finds a comfortable pressure that the patient prefers.

Is it going to be painful? 

Massage treatments can be uncomfortable at times, especially when the therapist is working through a tender area. If the discomfort exceeds what you are comfortable with, let your therapist know and they will lighten the amount of pressure they use.

Will massage help my chronic pain?

Massage therapy can help to reduce pain by reducing stress and tension. Many physiological effects do happen during massage therapy, including improving blood flow, increasing neurochemicals like endorphins and dopamine, which help to decrease pain and inflammation and improve wellbeing. Ideally, a combination of massage and regular exercise can improve the painful area.  

How many sessions do I need for Lymphatic drainage massage?

Most massage therapists recommend that you start with one to two visit per week for the first 4-6 weeks specifically for MLD.  Chronic musculoskeletal conditions may require several massage sessions at regular intervals.

Is massage therapy covered by OHIP?

As with all other manual therapies, OHIP does not cover massage treatments. The sessions are paid through Extended Health Benefits or privately. Most Insurances will ask for a doctor’s note recommending massage before they reimburse you.

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