Manual lymphatic drainage massage (MLD) for cellulite?

Cellulite is not just excess water retention and cannot be "removed" by manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). Don't believe the hype.

Given that until the past couple of decades little was known about cellulite, many "experts" claimed that cellulite is just water retention and "toxin" accumulation. This has lead to the myth that MLD massage (manual lymphatic drainage massage) can "get rid of" cellulite on its own or as the main anti-cellulite therapy. This, of course, could not be further from the truth, as millions of women have discovered to their disappointment, after dozens of MLD massages leading to minimal, temporary results, or no results at all.

However, we now know that cellulite is much more than just water retention. Cellulite is primarily superficial fat accumulation - in addition to water retention / impaired microcirculation, fibrosis / connective tissue deformity, skin looseness, oxidative damage, glycation and chronic, low-grade inflammation. Obviously, a feather-light massage (such as MLD massage) can do absolutely nothing to reduce fat deposits, firm up the skin, affect free radical damage, glycation or break down fibrotic tissue (all major aspects of what we call cellulite). Such a simplistic approach can only offer a very temporary (1-2 days), very mild relief, solely based on removing excess water from the cellulite tissues. And nothing else.


Lymphatic stimulation massage: a far better way to drain excess water from the tissues, than MLD massage

The old-fashioned Vodder lymph massage developed in the 1930s is an extremely light massage technique that helps to passively, slowly and temporarily drain excess water from the tissues. It is particularly suited to people with lymph glands removed due to cancer, or people whose system is too weak/fragile to receive treatments such as radiofrequency, cavitation or the more vigorous lymphatic stimulation massage necessary for faster, more impressive results. For those people, the Vodder-style MLD is the treatment of choice, as it is very precise and very, very mild.

However, for the vast majority of the population the feather-light manual lymph massage is a sheer waste of time. This is evident by the fact that when healthy, fit people try it, they experience minimal results - or no results at all. They find it boring and pointless. For those people, MLD does not add to what the body can already do.

In generally healthy people who want to further boost their natural lymphatic drainage capacity, more vigorous types of lymphatic massage, such as lymphatic stimulation massage (LSM), deep tissue massage or pressotherapy massage offer superior results. This is because lymphatic stimulation massage (as the name suggests) stimulates the body to boost its own lymphatic drainage capacity and blood circulation (arterial flow and venous return). This is in contrast to the passive, painfully slow drainage of fluid that MLD attempts to do on the body's behalf.


Cellulite-specific lymphatic stimulation massage + a concentrated anti-cellulite cream = a cost efficient cellulite reduction

In addition to its superior effects on the removal of excess water (and toxins) from the tissues, vigorous lymphatic stimulation massage (LSM) is well-suited to cellulite reduction. This is because such types of stronger, cellulite-specific massages have been shown to also stimulate skin firming (somewhat), help break down scar tissue / fibrosis (quite significantly), strengthen the blood and lymph vessels (also evidenced by diminished bruising after a few sessions) and mechanically break down fat cells (to a reasonable extent), i.e. they help fight all aspects of cellulite.

Strong cellulite-specific massage on its own is not as effective as the gold standards of cellulite reduction, i.e high-power monopolar radiofrequency or ultrasound cavitation. However, when combined with healthy diet, exercise and a good, concentrated anti-cellulite cream, it can be an effective and cost efficient way to reduce cellulite.

In comparison to the above, manual lymphatic drainage and body brushing, the darlings of ignorant "experts", are a sheer waste of time.