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This is a simplified version of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD)|, which you can be taught to do yourself at home. It’s carried out in combination with breathing exercises|.
Choose a time and place where you can do SLD in a relaxed way and won’t be interrupted or distracted. Make sure you have everything you need before you start and get yourself into a comfortable position. Don’t forget to do your deep breathing exercises first.
We have diagrams and explanations on this page to help you, but these are only a guide. It’s important that you’re taught these techniques by a specialist before you start. You might want to ask a relative or friend to go to your appointment with you so they can learn the techniques and help you at home. The LSN (Lymphoedema Support Network)| has DVDs on the self-management of lymphoedema that show how to do SLD.
The massage is done without any oils or creams, using your hand very gently to move the skin in a particular direction. A little talcum powder may be helpful if your skin is sticky and your hand doesn’t move freely. If your skin is red when you’ve finished, then the movement is too hard.
Hand-held massagers may be useful for people who have restricted movement of their hands. However, it’s a good idea to talk to your lymphoedema specialist before buying one. Some people find it helpful to use a soft baby brush as a massager.
Massage 1 - for arm and leg swelling
View a large version of the diagram of massage 1|
The massage aims to stimulate the flow of lymph in the body generally.
Massage 2 - for swelling of one arm
View a large version of the diagram of massage 2|
The aim of this massage is to stimulate the lymph channels on the body (trunk) to clear the way ahead so excess fluid can drain away.
The skin is always moved away from the swollen side. You’ll find it easier to start with one hand, and then swap to the other as you move across the body.
If you have the help of a relative or friend, the massage can be repeated across the back, starting again from the non-swollen side (position 1).
Massage 3 - for swelling of one leg
View a large version of the diagram of massage 3|
The aim of this massage is to clear a path ahead of the affected leg to allow excess fluid to drain away.
Content last reviewed: 1 March 2013
Next planned review: 2015
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