Sign In

Freda Yako-Malott, BSc, RMT

Manual Lymphatic Drainage and Bandaging

the secret to healthy tissue

Manual Lymphatic Drainage is a modality of massage therapy that is used to specifically stimulate the lymphatic system. The Dr Vodder method of Manual Lymph Drainage and Combined Decongestive Therapy is a four week post-graduate course. The method was developed by Dr Emil and Estrid Vodder in Europe during the 1930s. Along with the manual aspect of the therapy, they also included short stretch bandaging to complement the drainage. The combination of the two can greatly affect the condition of lymphedema (chronic swelling due to challenges in the lymphatic system). The Vodder school requires its certified therapists to re-certify every two years to stay current with the therapy and research.

The lymphatic system is a one way system that starts in the tissue just under the skin then through a vessel system that eventually leads back to the blood system. The lymphatic system dumps its lymphatic load into the blood system near the neck. The lymphatic system moves 2-4 litres of fluid a day, thus it is a very important part of our health.

Primary lymphedema is lymphedema that occurs due to a defect already present in the body. It may present itself at birth, but most likely it will develop sometime later on in one's life. There is no real way to tell that you are at risk. Usually, the one leg/foot is more affected than the other, and the legs/feet are usually more affected than the arms and hands.

Secondary lymphedema is lymphedema that occurs due to a secondary reason. Surgical damage, injury, poor circulation, obesity are some examples of secondary reasons. Most commonly diagnosed, but not the sole reason, is damage from cancer surgery and treatment. There is also no way to determine risk of lymphedema, but after cancer surgery, lymph node dissection (removal) and radiation treatment (any combination) one is at a lifetime risk of lymphedema. However, with education and awareness, lymphedema can be very manageable.

Either primary or secondary lymphedema is manageable and treatable. This would include education, body awareness, manual lymph drainage and possible garments or bandaging.

Often, both primary and secondary lymphedema is underdiagnosed and therefore undertreated. The most important aspect of lymphedema therapy is EDUCATION OF THE PATIENT. If one is aware the signs and symptoms of lymphedema, then they are able to seek diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible. Even though the lymphedema may show up "suddenly", it has been building up and gathering steam for some time before that. There may be a trigger event, but it is only "the straw that broke the camel's back", and there may be a very simple and easy solution...manual lymph drainage.

Manual lymph drainage is an excellent tool to recover from injuries, as the tissues fluids tend to stagnate as they are trying to heal. Recovery time from injuries or surgery can be greatly reduced and improve healing considerably. There also tends to be less restrictive scar tissue formation.

When you seek lymphedema treatment, please be sure to ask if the therapist is CERTIFIED and in good standing. There are other methods of lymphatic drainage, but the Vodder school is the original method. No matter what training the therapist has, please be sure that they are certified.

For more information about Vodder manual lymph drainage and lymphedema, please visit www.vodderschool.com .

If you would like more information about lymphedema and support, please visit the Lymphedema Association of Ontario, www.lymphontario.ca .