Manual lymph drainage is an approach based on trained physiologic principles of improving lymph flow and lymph vessel emptying. The lymphatic system is responsible for protecting the body from infection and disease through the immune response system, and for facilitating fluid movement from the tissue back into the bloodstream. The lymph vessels drain skin, muscles, and organs at three levels in the body. The lymphatic system begins at the blood capillary level, where many chemical and mechanical reactions take place.
It is critical that a therapist understand the lymphatic system to intervene in lymph fluid movement and function. Manual lymph drainage is a gentle, skilled technique using five strokes on the surface of the skin to facilitate lymph vessel activity, along specific pathways to improve lymph function. This technique increases lymph vessel activity, increases reabsorption of protein-rich fluid in the capillary bed, promotes relaxation, and has an analgesic effect.
Manual lymph drainage has been known to improve symptoms related to fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, sinus and migraine headaches, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, inflammatory rheumatism, scleroderma, detoxifying the skin, post-traumatic and post-surgical edema, osteopenia, and lipedema.