Manual Lymphatic Drainage - Vodder Method

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) is a fast growing area of massage – and one that uses the lightest of touch. It takes time to master this light touch and so the training is in three parts, each module usually separated by a month or more in order for the student to practise. Courses are only open to those who have already qualified and practised in another bodywork field.

Beware of imitations however. There are many people and schools who profess to teach the Vodder method of MLD without having gone through the rigorous training a properly qualified Vodder teacher has gone through. (It takes two years of teacher training for each of the first two modules and three to four additional years to qualify to teach the third module.) If you are contemplating adding this valuable skill to your repertoire ask who the tutor has trained with and ask to see their teachers certificate.

MLD is an advanced massage technique which moves the skin over the underlying tissues using repetitive and circular movements. Dr. Emil and Estrid Vodder discovered and then developed the technique in the 1920’s and 1930’s, going on to train others in the late 1940’s. They then worked with, and set up schools with, the Wittlingers in Austria (The Vodder Schule), Casley-Smith in Australia and Asdonk and Foeldi in Germany. These groups in their turn have trained therapists and teachers since the 1950’s.

The Lymphatic system was described around 1654 as "A system which purifies the body and regulates irritation, swelling and oedema." (Thomas Bartholin) By specifically stimulating the minute musculature of the lymph vessel walls an MLD Therapist uses the lymph system itself to cleanse the body, reduce any swelling and strengthen the immune system.

Described as "One of the best kept secrets on the health and beauty scene." (Jane Alexander, Daily Mail Saturday) , MLD’s intensely relaxing effect masks the strength of the treatment itself. I have been quoted time and again for saying that an MLD facial is like a facelift without surgery and so it is. As the stimulated lymph vessels go to work clearing the loose connective tissue of accumulated excess cells and debris, the skin not only looks clearer and cleaner – it actually is clearer and cleaner, right down to the sub-cutaneous levels.

As no oils or powders are used it is completely safe even for those with sensitive skin. This non-invasive technique simply uses the muscles and structure of the existing lymphatics to clear accumulated fluid. For anyone who has clients going through a detox or weight loss programme MLD is invauable for its ability to safely remove excess `debris’ from all over the body and to help tighten the skin.

Taken further, it eases the swelling/ inflammation caused by everything from more vigorous treatments, trauma from accidents and on to surgical intervention. As a pre and then post op treatment it is unparalleled in its ability to ease most - and usually all - of the tissue swelling associated with trauma and surgery and so speed the healing rate of damaged structures.

MLD’s role as one of the cornerstones of CDT (Complex (or Combined) Decongestive Therapy) for lymphoedema and lipoedema comes as no surprise to those who understand the lymph system’s amazing ability to regulate swelling and fluid imbalance. It is a vital part of lymphoedema treatment, opening up alternative avenues for the dispersal of excess fluid and avoiding the areas affected by lymphatic malfunction.

MLD also has an effect similar to the tens machine in pain control. In reducing the swelling, promoting healing and reducing pain, MLD becomes one the most effective treatments for any trauma, however caused.

It is one of the safest massages available to women who are pregnant. MLD uses no oils or powders so absolutely nothing is being introduced to upset the developing foetus. From top to toe there is no need whatsoever for a pregnant woman to suffer swollen anything.

MLD has a strong effect on the immune system. By decongesting the `transit stretch’ of loose connective tissue – clearing out any lingering debris – and making the whole transport system more efficient, MLD helps quicken the transport system of our bodies immune response. I have often been told by clients that when the whole family came

Training Route

Manual Lymph Drainage, Vodder Method, is a post graduate qualification. In order to start training you must be fully qualified as a nurse, doctor, physiotherapist, osteopath, or as an aromatherapist or massage therapist with at least 2 years experience.

For those who want to add a facial to their skills, a Vodder Method Face Course is available. This is a three day course covering the head and neck in detail and starts you on the road towards that light, circular touch so vital to the success of MLD.

The main training is split into 3 modules all of which have theoretical and practical sections.

Basic, Therapy I & Therapy II and III

Basic: is a five day course which must be completed by all students. MLD is so very different from any other technique that it is vital to take the time to get each movement correct. This is an attendance course only. There is no exam and it does not qualify you to work on the general public.

Therapy I: is a second set of five days which continues the work started in the Basic course and starts to look at the treatment of pathologies. This is an exam course and the successful student can start using MLD on patients and clients who have an intact and viable lymph system.

If you are interested in the more medical applications you can then go onto:

Therapy II and III: which are taught together. This is an eleven day residential course held in the autumn each year in Devon. Theory and pathologies which can be treated with MLD are taught by the Medical Director of the Vodder Clinic and School who comes over from Austria. The practical work is taught by one of only six qualified teachers world wide. Once this level is passed then the whole world of MLD is open to you. This course studies the many causes of oedema including lymphoedema and working with patients who have a compromised lymph system.

Buyer beware! If someone is offering you a shorter course, check them out first. Are they qualified to teach MLD? Is the training acceptable to MLD UK (MLD’s Governing Body) ? I have had many students who came to MLD Training after spending quite a lot of time and money on courses only to find they weren’t awarded an acceptable qualification for what they wanted to do.

The Vodder, Casley-Smith, Foeldi and Asdonk method certificates are acceptable worldwide. It is very difficult to accurately describe the experience of an MLD treatment in a few words. If you are interested in this amazingly subtle massage, the best advice would be to find a qualified practitioner and book yourself in for a treatment. I always keep in mind the comment of one of my clients who told me that "I have lymphatic massage from time to time but you are very different and the effects last at least three times as long."

Quick Check List

MLD is contra-indicated for anyone with untreated malignant disease, Right-side cardiac insufficiency, thrombosis or acute infection. (Students work on each other during the practical sessions.)

For further information contact:
Mary Hudson, MLD Training
01590 676 988 or visit the website

For a list of qualified teachers and/or practitioners go to

Dee Jones has been at the forefront of Manual Lymph Drainage, Vodder Method since 1991. She is a founding member of MLD UK, the Governing Body for MLD in the UK. She has lectured and taught at hospitals and on courses all over the UK and Europe. In addition to teaching she is the Clinical Director for an in-patient lymphoedema clinic and also see’s clients privately, for the NHS and for heath insurance companies.

Dee has had several articles written about MLD and herself in Harpers & Queen, The Mail on Saturday, Top Sante and many others. She is also mentioned in Jane Alexander’s book "Supertherapies’


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