..The Intuitive Times
Complementary Therapies


Manual Lymph Drainage After Breast Cancer Surgery

by Beth MacKenzie, RMT, NDAEBC

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Manual lymph drainage (MLD® therapy) or any type of therapy should only be applied after receiving approval from your primary caregiver (usually your MD or Oncologist).

In 1932, Dr. Emil and Estrid Vodder while working as physical therapists in France, thoroughly studied the lymphatic system. They developed a series of light rhythmic manipulations that stimulate the lymphatic flow and the movement of fluids throughout the body. Because of the success they had with treating their patients, the Vodders developed a systematic approach to treatment of the entire body called "Manual Lymph Drainage." They later started teaching their method at the Dr. Vodder Center in Denmark and throughout Europe. Hildegard and Gunther Wittlinger, in Austria, were appointed as their successors to teach and train others in MLD®. The Wittlingers established the Dr. Vodder Schools in Austria and North America in the 1970's. The Vodder method is still used today by therapists who have been trained in this technique. To find a therapist that is trained in the Vodder method, contact Dr. Vodder School North America at 1-800-522-9862 or e-mail: drvodderna@vodderschool.com.

Massage Therapists who have graduated from a 2200-Hour Massage Therapy Diploma course have received training in providing MLD®. The Vodder School offers a four-week post-graduate, training program for therapists to specialize in this technique. The technique of directly stimulating the flow of the lymphatic system can have positive results for the post-surgery patient to help control and reduce the swelling/edema in the affected area. When the lymphatic flow is increased, the body is able to rid itself of the stagnant fluid, protein, toxins, and cells accumulated in the affected area.

The therapist starts by stimulating the lymph nodes closest to the affected side of the body. In the case of a radical mastectomy, where the lymph nodes under the arm have been removed, the lymph nodes under the arm on the opposite side of the body are stimulated first. The therapist works slowly using overlapping gentle soft strokes keeping their hands relaxed, always working the strokes towards the heart until they reach the affected site. They continue to work on site until the edema has been eliminated. An appointment for treating swelling/edema using MLD® can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour. Most clients will find it a very relaxing treatment because of the gentle touch involved. MLD® is an effective treatment because it helps maintain tissue and lymphatic health, and the therapist and client are able to work together to achieve this goal. MLD is a registered trademark of Dr. Vodder.

Beth MacKenzie, RMT, NDAEBC practices Therapeutic Massage and can be reached at
(902) 892-7788 or (902)- 436-9101.

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