I didn’t know what to expect from a Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) Stress Treatment at Bayview Sheppard RMT. After my first MLD session at the clinic, I thought it would be beneficial for my lymphatic system and relaxing, perhaps having more of a long-term versus immediate affect. In comparison to the everyday stress of years past, my present-day levels are low, a gift I treasure daily.  After years of severe health issues involving dysregulation of my sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response to perceived or actual danger) and my parasympathetic nervous system (what restores your body’s level of calm) plus some traumatic experiences and resulting PTSD, I lead a very mindful life, meditate daily and have taken great effort to heal my mind and body. I did not expect to have several healing responses during the massage.

Light, soothing music greeted me in the background as I settled onto the massage table and the heating pad warming my legs. My Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) immediately put me at ease and explained she would be concentrating on my neck, abdomen and face. Using no oil, she gently started massaging my neck area with slow, repetitive movements to open the lymph nodes. Within the first few minutes of the treatment, my body started to respond in ways I was not expecting.

I started to experience the first of several head tingles that would occur throughout the treatment which caught me pleasantly by surprise. The light hand movements of my RMT around my neck and thyroid (the butterfly shaped gland just below the Adam’s apple) started to bring emotions to the surface I did not know still needed to be dealt with. I have Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune condition affecting the thyroid, and Gluten Ataxia, a rare condition in which gluten causes an autoimmune attack on the brain’s motor control centre and nervous system. For several years my neck was swollen and I had pain and numbness throughout my face – the equivalent of a migraine every day. I do believe the light touch of MLD acted as a safe space for emotions regarding this past pain to surface, in essence telling my nervous system it was in a calm state.

As my RMT gently started light pressure movements on my abdomen, the best way I can think to describe it was like she was gingerly kneading dough. I am curvy, so someone leaner or more muscular may have a different interpretation. As she moved in gentle clockwise movements, I could feel my stomach area awakening as lymph was moved through the lymphatic system. Like my previous MLD treatment, my stomach started to make noises. I also continued to experience head tingles as well as toe tingles. All of this was so unexpected and fascinating to me as well as deeply relaxing. With the heating pad on my legs, and the added sensation of the head and toe tingles, as my RMT continued to concentrate on my upper body by moving to my head, my entire body felt calm and connected.

Gentle pressure movements were done on my face, including on my nose which was so interesting and relaxing to experience for the first time. Light, stimulating sequences were done around my ears as well. As the treatment again moved around the neck area, I could again feel emotions stirring and tears well up in my closed eyes. I am not one to hold back on releasing emotions during a treatment. If I had to cry, I would have, especially in such a safe, caring environment. Even with emotions surfacing, throughout the treatment, and as it ended, I felt calm, peaceful and happy.

I made a point of having water throughout the day to flush out my system and was prepared if I had to go to the washroom more than usual which my RMT mentioned might happen. I did not find any difference in this regard but being one to rarely have a nap, I found myself having one in the afternoon after my treatment. And like my last MLD treatment, I slept deeply that night.

This type of gentle therapy and light touch would have been the perfect wellness aid, the perfect level of body stimulation for my overwhelmed system on my healing journey. I would not have thought to try Manual Lymphatic Drainage Stress Therapy for my autoimmune conditions, for the pain, inflammation and overstimulation my brain and body was experiencing nor would it have occurred to me to suggest it to another person going through similar health struggles. This truly felt like a calming, healing hug for my nervous system reducing the stress hormone cortisol and boosting my feel-good endorphins like dopamine and serotonin helping bring about feelings of calm and happiness.

I wish more people knew about the benefits of a Manual Lymphatic Drainage Stress Treatment for a wide variety of conditions. I believe it is a hidden gem in the field of massage therapy people with a variety of conditions need to discover.