Manual lymphatic drainage: the evidence behind the efficacy
Manual lymphatic drainage (MLD), a specific type of massage performed by specialists that aims to enhance the filling and emptying of lymph vessels, is often recommended as an essential part of a successful management strategy for lymphoedema. However, the literature on its efficacy is often contradictory, and its addition may not always be necessary. To ensure optimal understanding of practitioners and benefit to patients, Francesca Ramadan summarises the evidence-based advantages and limitations of MLD.
Lymphoedema is a chronic and progressive disorder resulting from impaired lymphatic system function, triggering an excessive accumulation of lymph fluid in the superficial tissues, which can lead to chronic swelling, localised pain, atrophic skin changes and secondary infections (Whitaker, 2016; Kayıran et al, 2017). Lymphoedema can be primary or secondary in aetiology: the former is related to developmental abnormalities of the lymphatic system, whereas the latter is attributed to the impairment of lymphatic vessels due to an acquired condition, such as trauma, tumour, surgery or infections (Kayıran et al, 2017). To date, there is no cure for lymphoedema, and the condition is associated with impaired quality of life, both in terms of psychosocial and physiological functioning. Pain, skin tightness, heaviness, numbness and reduced range of movement have been reported, as well as altered body image, anxiety and depression (Thomas et al, 2020). Therefore, it is imperative to collaborate with a patient to create and maintain an effective management strategy.
Register now to continue reading
Thank you for visiting Community Nursing and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for district and community nurses. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:
Limited access to clinical or professional articles
New content and clinical newsletter updates each month