There is an ever-increasing need for today's massage therapists to specialize in order to meet client needs and stay competitive. Lymphedema management, using the techniques known as manual lymph drainage (Vodder Technique) and complete decongestive therapy (MLD/CDT), is a career path to consider upon leaving massage school.
MLD is a gentle manual technique that is used in combination with compression therapy, skin care and decongestive exercises to address a number of pathologies. The main indications for this therapy are primary and secondary lymphedema affecting the upper and lower extremities. Other indications include post-traumatic and postoperative swellings, edema caused by venous insufficiencies, pregnancy and immobility. This therapy is also used to address migraine headaches and for general detoxification of the body.
MLD, if applied correctly, increases the activity of lymph vessels and moves interstitial fluid. The distinct difference between MLD and traditional massage techniques is the pressure the therapist applies to the skin. The MLD therapist uses very little pressure, designed to stimulate the activity of lymphatic vessels located in the skin, whereas massage uses greater pressure to manipulate muscles, tendons and ligaments. The resulting lower impact on the therapist's joint structures, as well as the rewarding results achieved with MLD/CDT, make this technique an ideal specialty.
The Lymphology Association of North America mandates 135 hours of continuing education for certification in this technique. Upon completion of this two-week continuing-education course, each successful participant receives certification as a lymphedema therapist.