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Here's answers to some of the most common questions I get about manual lymphatic drainage:

Who needs MLD?

MLD is useful for almost anyone. You do not have to be sick or just have had a procedure for MLD to be useful.

MLD is particularly advantageous for those with lymphedema, though those with later stages of  lymphedema will need more complete decongestive care (such as compression and skin care).

MLD is also very useful when healing from surgeries (medical or cosmetic), for those with cancer (though not within 48 hours of chemotherapy injections/infusions), and for those with autoimmune conditions.

Lymph work can help with overall sluggishness, bloating and low energy. Digestive issues such as IBS, crohn's disease and Leaky Gut also benefit from lymphatic drainage.

Additionally, MLD is great for cleaning up after you’ve been sick (think the tickle in your throat that just won’t go away) and is also great as a regular maintenance tool for avoiding getting sick. It’s great for before or after you travel to boost the immune system and decrease swelling.

I’ve helped folks with sleep issues get a good nights rest with MLD, worked with brides before their wedding to help their body release any extra gunk, worked with folks who have struggled with long-term issues after c-sections, hysterectomies or other surgeries. It helps with headaches and migraines, those with chronic diseases such as lyme, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. It can also help with arthritis.

Indeed, the list goes on and on. MLD has far reaching, systemic benefits that can greatly contribute to healing from disease, injury or surgery and also has amazing results as a wellness maintenance plan. 

Who should not get MLD?

MLD is contraindicated for those with congestive heart failure, kidney failure or any other serious/untreated heart or kidney disease or dysfunction. It is also contraindicated for those with deep vein thrombosis or any other type of blood clot. Those with cellulitis or any other type of active infection should not get lymph work, nor those with an active fever. I recommend my clients receiving radiation or chemotherapy wait at least 48 hours before coming in for a session as well. 

Does it hurt?

No, lymphatic drainage shouldn’t hurt. In fact, it is quite relaxing and shifts most folks into a more parasympathetic state. There may be times, especially in the abdomen, that we may be meeting points of tension and may border on uncomfortable but the intention of lymph work isn’t to “go digging”, so tension may be met but never countered. A majority of the session is done with light touch work, lighter than a typical massage. Most of the session is intending towards your lymph nodes and vessels just underneath the skin, so we don’t have to dive too deep to find them. It is very rhythmic work which also contributes to the relaxation aspect.

Where does the fluid drain to?

We are not physically draining any fluid from your body during the session. The “drainage” happens within the body (lymphatic fluid gets moved into the circulatory system to make way for more fluid to be absorbed from tissues all over the body). Eventually, waste gets removed through peeing, pooping or sweating. Most people report needing to pee more after lymphatic sessions as well as better BMs the days following lymph drainage sessions. I’ve had a few clients say that they sweat more after sessions but these have been few and far between. But basically, lymph drainage is helping to move fluid within the body that is then later sent out through our natural detox pathways. 

How long do sessions last?

I offer 60 and 90 minute sessions of MLD. I typically recommend people start with 60 minutes, see how their body reacts and increase time if we find it necessary. In 60 minutes we can do a full-body once over. 90 minute sessions are great for those with greater drainage needs (say one who has lymphedema), if you know it takes you a while to relax and settle on the table or if you want a more in-depth session that includes more work on the head, hands, feet and back. 

How should I prepare for my session?

Come in for your session hydrated. Eat 2-3 hours before but not right before if you can avoid it. Limiting alcohol, caffeine and refined sugar beforehand is advantageous as well. 

How will I feel afterwards?

It depends. Some people feel amazing, some people don’t feel much different, some people feel like hot garbage. It really is dependent on the contents of your lymphatic system and other factors such as hydration, how rested you are, how much you’ve eaten, emotional state, etc. The best way to avoid feeling crappy is to make sure you come in hydrated and to stay hydrated after the session. Limiting alcohol, caffeine and refined sugars the day before, of and after will also increase your chances of feeling good after the session. Doing some gentle movement like some light stretching or a walk is useful in helping any gunk clear out after the session. Eating a meal with lots of fiber as well as avoiding strenuous activity after a session will help as well.

How often should I come in?

This completely depends on your intentions, goals and resources.

After someone has had surgery, I recommend they come in one once a week for 3-6 weeks, or until we feel they have made good progress and are ready to move on.

If someone is coming to see me for lymphedema maintenance and are doing a lot of work on their own, maybe once a month is good. If they’re not doing work on their own, maybe once every 2 weeks.

For those looking to solve a particular issue with MLD, I recommend coming in once a week or every 2 weeks for 3-6 weeks to get a feel for how your body reacts to the work then making a treatment plan from there.

I always consider the person and their situation when making recommendations to come in. It entirely depends on where you want to go with the sessions, what you can afford, how often you can make it in and your intentions with the work. 

Will MLD help if I’m sick?

MLD is great for preventing sickness and for cleaning up after but shouldn’t be done when you are actively sick. Of course, I don’t want you coming in for sessions if you’re sick anyway, but even lymph drainage on yourself when sick is contraindicated, as it could spread the sickness and make you feel worse. Wait for your body to fight off the thick of it then come in after you’re feeling better to help remove any lingering aftermath. 

Will MLD help my hangover?

The root of hangovers is dehydration. MLD won’t make you feel better if you’re dehydrated. I recommend hydrating and doing some gentle movement but not working the lymph system if you’re already feeling really sick. We always want to make sure we have some hydration going on before moving lymph or else you’re just asking for a headache and fatigue. Wait until the worst has passed then come in after with some MLD to help the body clear what’s left.

I hope this helped clear up some questions you may have had! Feel free to reach out to with any further questions you may have!

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