Photo of MLD technique for lymphoedema

Lymphoedema is a term used to describe swelling in the tissues arising from an impairment in the lymphatic system due to surgery, trauma or the system not developing normally.


In the cases where the swelling is as a result of trauma, surgery, venous insufficiency, reduced mobility or cancer itself it is termed secondary lymphoedema.


It can occur anywhere in the body but is commonly seen in legs, feet and arms and is often an outcome of treatment for cancer involving surgery and/or radiotherapy or as a consequence of venous insufficiency.


Lymphoedema can also be present at birth or may develop later in life, during puberty or mid-life and is due to abnormal functioning or underdevelopment of the lymphatics. This is known as primary lymphoedema. 


For further information about lymphoedema please refer to the Lymphoedema Support Network website. This website contains helpful guidance for healthcare professionals as well as patients.



Treatment of lymphoedema

MLD is an important component in the treatment and management of lymphoedema. The gentle, superficially focused techniques are used to encourage the flow of fluid away from the swollen area towards other areas where there are healthy lymphatics. As it may take time to do this, a number of treatments will in many cases be required. 


The sooner lymphoedema is diagnosed and treated the better the control of the condition. Although it is not curable, with early treatment symptoms can be minimised and it can be well managed.


Manual Lymphatic Drainage is indicated:

  • if there is pain and discomfort from swelling
  • where tissue has become hard (fibrosis)
  • for swelling on the trunk of the body (chest, back, underarm, breast, abdomen)
  • to help reduce limb size (along with other strategies)
  • to promote wound healing
  • for facial swelling

Over time and with patience it is thought the body can be re-educated to take fluid through alternative lymphatic pathways. Daily sessions or three treatments per week are often the quickest way to obtain results. Less frequent sessions are more appropriate in some cases although results may be slower. We will discuss your individual requirements at the first appointment.


Should you require intensive work you may need to commit yourself to regular sessions over the first 3 to 4 weeks but it can be worth the effort! Occasional repeat sessions are often beneficial after that. You can also learn self massage techniques to use at home.


Although MLD is an important element in the treatment of lymphoedema, other components include skincare, exercise, compression garments and multi-layer bandaging (collectively known as Combined Decongestive Therapy, CDT or Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy, DLT). Any or all of these may be suggested as part of your treatment alongside the MLD and in combination can be effective in controlling swelling, for example after breast cancer treatment.


MLDuk mini guide to breast cancer.


MLD is not appropriate for all people or caution may be warranted in some circumstances. If you have other health problems, then firstly approach your doctor or consultant or breast care nurse for advice. Where appropriate I will always work with your medical team supervising your treatment.


If you are suffering from any of the following conditions please contact me before booking:

  • heart problems
  • thrombosis
  • active cancer
  • infection

If you have any queries or concerns please contact me on 07939 484 017 or via or the contact page on the website.