On my path to wellness, I have explored several healing modalities to improve my health and strengthen my immune system. After 10 years of recovering from extreme autoimmune symptoms, my goal has been to treat my body with as much tender loving care – TLC – as I possibly can, always with the goal to age powerfully.  What I do in my 50s after years of pain and inflammation matters for my mobility, happiness and overall health now and for my future self. My health quest led me to my first Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) massage treatment at Toronto’s Bayview Sheppard RMT, and I am so happy to have experienced this healing technique.

If you’re like me, you may have a general sense of what the treatment entails but may be wondering what is Manual Lymphatic Drainage? Our lymphatic systems exist to clean our bodies of waste products, the fluid in our systems known as lymph. Like a perfectly flowing highway, our lymphatic systems transport waste (lymph) like trucks down the highway carrying waste for disposal. The gentle massage techniques of MLD help move lymph through our systems in a very deliberate way to our lymph nodes to aid in elimination – much like creating a specific travel route that helps keep the highway moving efficiently. The intentional direction of a registered massage therapist’s (RMT’s) hand movements help avoid “traffic jams” aka swelling and inflammation by moving fluid from the swollen place to a place for the fluid to drain.

As someone who is used to a very firm sport or deep tissue massage, I knew I was in for a gentler therapy so left all expectations at the door for my first MLD appointment. From previous experience I know some of the gentlest treatments I have had have been the most beneficial. After being warmly greeted by my therapist who put me immediately at ease, the atmosphere that greeted me was cozy with the sound of ocean waves gently lapping the shore permeating the room. When I settled myself onto the massage table under the cozy blanket, I was pleasantly surprised to find it heated and immediately started to feel tension melt away.

My RMT asked me a couple health questions to determine the course of treatment and I explained I had been having trouble sleeping (which is unusual for me) and had been experiencing pain in one knee and shared a bit of my health journey.  I also shared that I have a “dent” in my thigh which is a factor in having proper circulation. She explained that as it was my first MLD treatment, she would be spending more time on my neck and upper body to prepare my body to properly move fluid where it needed to go. So yes, even though my knee needed attention, it was important to change the flow of energy higher up my body. And, as there was not one area with a large level of inflammation that would need most of the attention, it would also be a good opportunity to explore MLD treatment to many areas of my body that day which may not always be the case. I knew I was in great hands – literally and figuratively.

I spent the session lying on my back, and unlike many other massage therapies, no oil was used.  The gentle, slow hand movements were very relaxing flicks against my skin that moved in a very definite pattern to promote drainage. My therapist gently stimulated my neck and shoulders then arms, before gradually shifting to concentrate on my stomach and leg. As someone who eats very healthy, I rarely have an upset stomach or indigestion.  I found it fascinating that with very gentle movements my stomach started to gurgle and shift in a positive way.  The best way to describe it is that it felt like it was waking up.  I could feel the results of the drainage moving through my body. After the gentle pressure moved through my leg down to my knee, I could definitely feel a difference in the swelling of my knee area. The area felt lighter. I had been so used to feeling slight discomfort and was pleasantly surprised it had subsided. The most unexpected change happened after I left the clinic. I awoke the next day refreshed and well rested having slept well for the first time in 10 days!

I am excited to explore MLD further after my visit to Bayview Sheppard RMT as it is one of the tools I will put in my wellness toolbox for optimal health. Keeping my immune system strong is one of my top priorities. Feeling completely relaxed, cozy and taken care of while improving my health through MLD definitely puts the health and care in healthcare.