Wellness dictionary

Little ABC for your spa-break questions ...

In their treatment discriptions, wellness hotels often use technical terms, which are hard to understand for potential guests. We have therefore collected and defined the most relevant terms in our small wellness ABC. A tip: Our wellness dictionary also supports word requests. You don't need to know the exact wording.

Manual lymphatic drainage

What is a manual lymphatic massage?

Manual lymphatic drainage was founded by the Danish physiotherapist Emil Vodder. During his work at an institute for physical therapy in the south of France he observed that patients with chronic colds quite often suffer from swollen lymphatic glands in the throat area. Vodder massaged these enlarged lymphatic glands with gentle rotating and rhythmic movements, helping patients to recover. His theory went against general medical practice at this time. This experience was Vodder’s starting point in developing the lymphatic drainage manual.

The lymphatic system 

- apart from the blood circulation – is the most important transport system in the body and also plays an important role in the body’s immune system. Lymphatic vessels are spread out around the entire body like a net. They collect, transport and filter waste like protein, toxics and inflammatory products from the tissue fluid. 

If the lymphatic flow is blocked, fluid accumulates in the tissue, which can cause swelling under the skin. The lymphatic lines are directly under the skin, so gentle massaging of the area in a circular and rhythmic motion helps with drainage. A firmer massage is required to reach and loosen deeper muscles. Lymphatic drainage is always recommended if there is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the tissue. This can sometimes happen after an operation.

The effect of lymphatic drainage is based on four effects in particular,

this includes

  • The decongestion of the lymphatic flow
  • Pain relief
  • Muscle Relaxation
  • Strengthening the immune system

However, the extent to which lymphatic drainage actually has a positive effect on the body's defences and immune system is scientifically controversial.

Lymphatic drainage - where can it be carried out?

Lymphoedema can occur in different parts of the body, and it is also possible for it to form on the face. As the superficial lymph channels run close under the skin, rhythmic, circular and pumping movements can stimulate the drainage. So-called cupping and twisting movements are also used. Depending on the type of lymphoedema, other grips are also used. The grips must be very gentle. This distinguishes the procedure from a massage, in which the tissue is firmly kneaded and worked through to loosen the deeper lying muscles.

People who have lipolymphedema also benefit from the gentle hand movements. This disease, which is usually congenital, is accompanied by increased fat deposits in the legs. This causes lymph to accumulate. It also makes sense to have lymph drainage after sports injuries or if the veins are weak.

Who carries out lymph drainage?

Lymph drainage is usually carried out by a masseur or physiotherapist. For this, special further training must be completed. Lymphatic drainage is also only ever one component of a therapy. It usually runs parallel to physiotherapy and compression therapy. For example, an arm is bandaged or a compression stocking worn after the lymph flow has been stimulated.

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