Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage for Sports Injuries


Using Manual Lymphatic Drainage to Improve Athletic Performance

If you are an athlete, perhaps you are wondering how to optimize your athletic performance. If you are looking for ways to give you more of a competitive edge on the field or on the court. One of the ways you can improve your performance, across a variety of sports, is through the regular implementation of manual lymphatic drainage incorporated into your sports massage routine.

Manual lymphatic drainage is a special massage technique that a certified massage therapist can implement during a regular massage therapy session. MLD can be implemented in two ways, 1) athletes who are recovering from an operation for a sports injury or 2) as a maintenance regimen between intense training periods to combat swelling and delayed onset muscle soreness. MLD is a non-invasive, rhythmic, light massage technique that helps increase flow of the fluid through the lymphatic system. Consistent lymphatic drainage massage helps get rid of metabolic waste that clog up the system. Overall, it can reduce pain and increase your range of motion by accelerating healing and softening scar tissue. MLD, when used after surgery for sports related injuries can help decrease healing time overall.

A study conducted by the University of Western Australia showed that a group of athletes who had undergone knee surgery and used manual lymphatic drainage as a part of the post-surgical recovery strategy demonstrated significantly greater active knee flexion.

Why Does Manual Lymphatic Drainage Work for Sports Injuries?

Athletes regularly sustain injuries and develop sore muscles from their intense training sessions. Both injuries and overworked muscles can cause damage to the soft tissue. When this tissue is damaged, fluid collects in the small spaces and causes swelling. For soft tissue that is damaged because of an injury or surgery, the total time to recovery can be decreased dramatically if the old stagnant fluid can be moved out more efficiently. The body can and does do this on its own, however, when done correctly MLD can help your perform this process much faster. Furthermore, if an athlete has a surgery, the chances of damage caused to the lymphatic tissue in that area are high, and so the application of MLD can help that lymphatic system overcome that.

First, following the surgery, injury, or strain, a full body restorative massage will be performed. The purpose of this is to kickstart the general recovery process by reducing stress in the body and promoting relaxation to support the more specific massage treatments, such as manual lymphatic drainage, that will be applied to targeted sections of the body later on. In between training sessions maintenance massages are performed to help optimize an athlete’s performance

So how does manual lymphatic drainage work exactly?

Your massage therapist will perform a series of techniques including light alternating pressure, compressions, effleurage, and skin rolling to help drain the fluid that has accumulated in your soft tissue. The lymphatic system is a very delicate network, so hard pressure is not effective at draining the lymphatic fluid. You could see results as soon as the end of your massage session. You might feel your joints loosen up and see a physical decrease in the size of swollen areas. Manual lymphatic drainage can also speed up the healing of ligaments, fractures, and minor sprains.