Manual lymphatic drainage is a very soothing and light massage technique, specifically for the purpose of treating lymphedema. The masseur uses light circular strokes on the skin, with a “pressure” phase and a “zero pressure” phase.
The pressure phase ensures sufficient opening of the smallest lymph vessels that lie just beneath the skin and which are closed with flaps like one-way valves. The valves allow lymph to flow into the lymph vessel. The zero pressure phase allows the lymph vessels to close again, following which the lymph can flow out.
Not all waste materials are carried through the blood; the largest protein particles can only be removed from tissue through the lymphatic system. If these proteins remain in the tissue there will be a build-up of fluid, which can finally result in edema. The lymph vessels transport the excess fluid to the large lymph nodes in the armpits and the groin. After purification the lymph is absorbed into the bloodstream or eliminated through urine.
It is usual to either see or feel (pressure) a reduction (slight) in the edema after massage. However, it is recommended to undergo several sessions to get the best results.