Benefits of Manual Lymphatic Drainage for Lymphedema

A systematic review published in the August 2020 issue of Journal of Cancer Survivorship: Research and Practice examined the effectiveness of manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) therapy for those at risk of or living with lymphedema.

The researchers examined studies that compared MLD with another intervention or control in patients with lymphedema or at risk of contracting lymphedema. Seventeen studies with a total of 867 female and two male participants were included.

Finding mixed results, the authors write: “Some studies reported positive effects of MLD on volume reduction, quality of life and symptom-related outcomes compared with other treatments, while other studies reported no additional benefit of MLD as a component of complex decongestive therapy. In patients at-risk, MLD was reported to reduce incidence of lymphedema in some studies, while others reported no such benefits.”

The systematic review helps shed some light on the effectiveness of MLD for patients with lymphedema, including “evidence that MLD in early stages following breast cancer surgery may help prevent progression to clinical lymphedema.”

This limitations and conflicting findings in the review highlight the need for further study in this area. Read the review online at https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32803533/.

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