..The Intuitive Times
Complementary Therapies


Lymphodema: The Vodder Manual Lymph Drainage Technique

By Sandra Macdonald, RMT,Cert. VMDTH

Back | Next | Contents | Home


The Vodder Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) technique was pioneered by Dr. Emil Vodder in the 1930s and is now practiced worldwide. Much research has been done on the effectiveness of MLD especially in Europe and more recently in Australia.

First, what is edema? Simply stated edema is swelling, caused by excess fluid in the tissues. This can result from many things; inflammation from injury like a sprained ankle; circulatory problems; heart conditions; pregnancy; or lymphatic dysfunction. In the later case, the resulting problem is called Lymphoedema.

Lymphoedema can be either primary or secondary. Primary lymphoedemas are caused by problems with the development of the lymphatic system - not having enough vessels, nodes or just a poor system. Primary lymphoedemas frequently involve the legs but can affect any area and may arise at or soon after birth, in puberty, or later in life. Secondary lymphoedemas result when something happens to the lymphatic system which causes a malfunction (i.e., trauma, surgery, or subsequent to other health problems such as circulatory conditions). Symptoms can arise soon after the incident or years later.

To understand why lymphoedema occurs, lets look at how fluid moves in the body. Many people are aware that blood is composed of white and red cells along with water, nutrients, proteins and other components. In the small capillaries, some of these substances filter out into the tissues to provide nutrients to the cells in exchange for waste products, much of which then filters back into the blood stream and is eliminated. However, some of the waste products remain, usually larger molecules like proteins, and water. This is what the lymph system is responsible for removing.

In the case of lymphoedema the lymph system cannot process this excess fluid and it gradually builds up. This leads to less filtration, and as fluid exchange slows, less nutrients are available to the cells, causing a decrease in the health of the tissues, and making the skin susceptible to infections like cellulitis.

The accepted treatment of lymphoedema is known as Complex Decongestive Therapy. CDT consists of four components:
1) Manual Lymph Drainage - MLD stimulates the lymph vessels to move the fluid away from the damaged areas and maximizes the function of the remaining vessels. A certified therapist can provide this and/or self-help techniques can be learned.
2) Compression - During treatment compression maintains the improvements from day to day preventing the limb from refilling. Compression garments can be ordered with varying strengths to suite the client's particular needs for long-term maintenance.
3) Exercise is important in maintaining the mobility of the affected limb. Slow, deliberate, broad muscle movements and deep breathing can also help stimulate lymph flow.
4) Skin Care - Due to the potential for decreased skin health it is important to keep the skin clean, use neutral pH lotions, and avoid minor cuts or injury to the involved area.

Lymphoedema is a chronic condition, and while it is not possible to repair, it can be successfully managed. If you have had a surgery in which nodes have been removed, then the lymph system is at risk. Not everyone gets lymphoedema and it is not possible to determine who will or will not develop it or when it might arise. It is important to recognize that the earlier treatment is started, the better the long-term results. The best advice is to be well informed so that if symptoms arise you can take quick action to deal with your concerns. There is a great deal of information available on the internet; try www.lymphovenous-canada.org, www.lymphnet.org, or www.vodderschool.com.

Sandra MacDonald is a Registered Massage Therapist (BC) for 14 years and for the past 6 has been a Certified Vodder Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapist in Halifax.


Back | Next | Contents | Home