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Manual lymphatic drainage and its results with lymphoedema

  • News
  • 4 min read

Taking a holistic view of varicose vein treatment has benefits for better outcomes. Here we look at manual lymphatic drainage, a practice that links to better recovery, especially for those with varicose veins and lymphoedema.

After varicose vein treatment a patient who has manual lymphatic drainage can look forward to: less swelling, better circulation, less pain, faster healing and fewer complications. For patients with lymphoedema this will also help the healing process and make them more comfortable.

What Is Manual Lymphatic Drainage?

Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) – a specialised type of medical skin massage done by trained therapists. It is gentle and non-invasive, using light pressure to stimulate the lymph vessels that lie just under the skin below the epidermal layer. Stimulating these surface lymphatics increases the flow of lymph fluid, enabling the filling of the deeper lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic fluid in these lymphatics is then transported back to the rest of the body. This touch will be light but powerful.



MLD is a specialised type of medical skin massage by trained therapists.

MLD increases the lymphatic flow. This increase is about twice as effective as walking and a lot more effective than when your legs are at rest. This increase in lymph fluid flow lessens your leg swelling, improves your skin and helps reduce the risk of skin infections, also called cellulitis.

MLD has proven to be effective in reducing oedema (swelling) as well, it soothes and relaxes. It helps reduce pain and improves our defences and immune system health to speed up healing.

How can MLD benefit people with varicose veins?

Manual lymphatic drainage can improve circulation by enhancing the lymphatic flow and helping remove cellular waste and excess fluid from the affected area. This can help reduce pressure on your skin and improve blood flow. Varicose veins may occur when blood pools in the veins due to damaged valves that prevent blood flow. MLD used before your varicose vein treatment can get the body ready for treatment. And, therefore, promote a better result, with faster recovery.


MLD used before your varicose vein treatment can get the body ready for treatment.

Other benefits of MLD after varicose vein treatment include: 

    • Reduced swelling – varicose veins may contribute to swelling in the legs, ankles and feet. Oedema caused by varicose veins is called venolymphoedema. After varicose vein treatment, many patients will continue to have some leg swelling. MLD can help reduce the swelling by getting rid of excess fluid.

    • Pain relief – varicose veins may cause aching and discomfort, especially after standing or sitting for long times. Varicose vein treatment often will not resolve all of these leg symptoms, especially if lymphoedema is present.  MLD can help reduce any remaining swelling to help reduce this pain and discomfort.

    • Prevention of complications – untreated varicose veins can lead to ulcers, phlebitis, blood clots and skin discolourations. MLD can help reduce the risk by improving circulation, reducing pressure on the veins and promoting healing.

“MLD is an effective treatment for managing varicose veins and lymphoedema. As these are long-term conditions, we encourage affected people to learn how to use this massage-like technique themselves daily. MLD moves lymphatic fluid via a special sequence throughout the body or out of an area that is congested,” says Lymphoedema and MLD therapist Maria Mudford.  “However, MLD should also be used in conjunction with compression garments, careful skin care and exercise and nutrition for the lymphatic system. MLD as a stand-alone treatment helps with immune health as part of a pre and post surgery prehab and recovery tool.” 

How can MLD benefit those with lymphoedema?

MLD can help reduce the symptoms and also help prevent certain complications for those with lymphoedema. It is especially helpful for patients with lymphoedema because it allows fluid to drain away from the areas where it collects.

Movement and doing strength exercises can also help with lymphatic drainage. Because waste products, toxins and fluids are removed from the body, reducing the risk of swelling and inflammation post treatment. Richard Evans Vascular refers patients for MLD to approved therapists.

For more information: Lymphoedema Therapists is a group specialising in treating patients with lymphoedema. Search here for a therapist.