Manual Lymph Drainage Massage Therapy

When the dermatologist at the hospital diagnosed me with Lipoedema, she prescribed two things.  Compression stockings to help press the fluid out of my legs, and manual lymph drainage massage therapy (MLD).  So off I went to one of the local huid en oedeemtherapie clinics for an intake session.

I didn’t get to choose where to go, probably because the Flevoland Ziekenhuis (the hospital in Almere), has a contract with this particular clinic that apparently has quite a few facilities through the Netherlands.  That’s ok because I really don’t think there’s much difference between the different clinics.  These particular clinics don’t treat only edema, but also acne conditions, give medical pedicures, measure compression garments, etc.


The intake session lasted about 20 minutes and it pretty much consisted of my taking off my pants so the skin therapist could get a good look at my legs.  We then talked about my lipedema diagnosis and a little about what to expect with the MLD.  All in all, it wasn’t very exciting.  The only good thing is the person assigned to me speaks pretty OK english which is a good thing.  I can buy cheese or order a meal in dutch.  Doing a medical appointment? Fat luck (no pun intended).

First manual lymph drainage massage appointment hurt like hell…

I’m not going to lie.  My first appointment hurt like hell.

For years I’d get a massage and the massage therapist would really work my calves thinking I had knots in there.  It hurt like hell and because I thought my muscles were always tight and knotted, I just accepted it as that’s how a massage to my legs is like.  Even though it never got better, even after I started stretching much, much more.

Knowing what I know now, that it’s the lipedema making my legs hurt that badly, I already wasn’t too excited to have my skin therapist touch my legs.  But when she started to press on my shins to gauge where my legs were with the lympedema, I was fast becoming a rather unhappy camper.

As she proceeded into rubbing the lymph nodes in my neck (collar bone), arm pit, and groin area I was thinking that maybe I was just telling myself it was going to hurt and her testing the lymphedema was the worse of it…but no.  Once she started on my right leg, which is by far the more painful, oh my word….I was close to punching her.

In the course of the treatment, she presses (really presses) in certain parts along the side of my leg, rubs, kneads, and presses down some more.  Not only was it painful, but she was visibly leaving bruises of her fingertips behind.

About 30 minutes after the treatment my shins and calves hurt so bad, just rubbing my hand over them hurt.  And of course that night, my cats learned how to fly.  They’re still kind of wary about stepping on my legs while I’m awake.

MLD makes me sick as a dog…

While it’s never happened to me, I have read reports of people who have gotten massages and reported feeling really sick afterwards.  Massage therapists will chime into the threads that this is talked about and say that more than likely, the massage therapist added a little lymph drainage.

I also read some ladies on the different lipoedema groups report feeling a bit icky after MLD.  It really makes sense that people can feel sick as the MLD is pushing all that toxic fluid into your blood stream in order to get rid of it.

However, I was NOT prepared for how ill feeling I was after the first session.  And truthfully, it hasn’t gotten much better several treatments later.

The fluid buildup is probably under the fat in my legs…

So I’m now about 4 sessions in and it really doesn’t visually look like it’s doing much.  I also can’t tell if the fluid is going away on the scale as my weight really hasn’t budged (as it hasn’t in the past 3 years).  But, the good news is my calves and shins seem “softer” and less painful.  My skin therapist was really working my legs this past treatment because she said she suspects now that the fluid isn’t on top of the fat, but below the fat.  Lets just say I’m glad that these treatments seem to be working for the amount of pressure I can tolerate because if she’d have used that much pressure my first treatment, I probably would have punched her.

It’s not working so much for the bruises.  I have some pretty gnarly fingertip bruises from where she was really pressing down on my calf and side of my leg.  If I’d have been thinking, I’d have had my husband take some pictures because it was rather impressive.

I think I have 2 or 3 treatments left until I get measured for my compression stockings.  While the thought of having to wear these things for the rest of my life isn’t so pleasant, I’ve got to say I’m looking forward to them.  Anything to help continue keeping the veins in my legs whole and healthy.


PetraAnn was first diagnosed with Lipedema in fall 2015 after years of eating keto and exercising with no weight loss results.After diagnosis, she has gone through 8 tumescent liposuction procedures from 2016 until 2018 and on 17 December 2019 underwent an abdominoplasty to remove the remaining 3-4 liters of lippy fat and loose skin.

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2 thoughts on “Manual Lymph Drainage Massage Therapy

  1. Hi Petra Ann. I live in Seattle and was recently diagnosed with Lipedema. I have been a member of many Facebook groups but just recently received the official diagnosis. I would like to have the liposuction surgery. I’ve also started Keto. Just wanted to say thank you for all your work and bravery – sharing the reality of Lipedema. Good luck with your healing and any future surgeries.

    1. Thank you! Good luck yourself! This is a horrible condition and I have to say that the liposuction helping me regain my mobility has made it completely worth the financial and physical burden.

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