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COVID-recovery and the role of MLD

Updated: May 17, 2023

A recent article by Ruth Werner in the Massage & Myotherapy Journal, sets out a thorough review of potential long term COVID-related side-effects that many people may suffer well after the pandemic is over. Much if it driven by the body's exaggerated inflammatory response to the SARS-Cov2 virus, and could therefore benefit from MLD therapy.

Primarily due to the light touch application and proven effects of MLD on lymphatic pumping and reduction in tissue inflammation.

The seven organ systems that maybe affected are described in detail by Ruth and I will attempt to briefly describe the physiological benefit in MLD for each one.

What can be achieved with MLD?


This caution is due to fragility of small blood vessels and the risk is subtle blood clotting problems. Which means that lymphatically the small lymph vessels are also at risk of damage.

MLD* is gentle enough to use on fragile vessels of all kinds, supports lymph formation, reduces overall tissue inflammation, & increases lymphatic pumping.

Acute Liver Injury

Ascites are not an indication for MLD, but MLD may be used with caution to relieve overall congestion and manage symptoms. Heart Problems The sympatholytic effect of MLD favours recovery from heart damage but caution must be taken to identify any sign of congestive heart failure and cease all MLD accordingly. Acute Kidney Injury If the initial damage was not too great, then MLD may assist recovery and reduce overall damage, but once a kidney has failed MLD should be ceased immediately.

Muscle and Joint pain

Described as "deep, severe, and unrelated to recent physical activity", the post COVID aches and pains are not an indications for a vigorous or challenging massage. MLD will give much needed relief but the load on other organs, esp kidneys must be monitored.

Neurological Problems

One of the few manual treatments to directly drain the cerebral space, MLD* for the soft palate can be applied early and frequently once the active infection is competed passed.

Mental and mood challenges

Any gentle, supportive and pain free manual therapy has the potential to reduce stress and increase wellbeing, and MLD double ticks all the boxes. Slow, rhythmic, non-invasive and never causing pain, the benefits of MLD in stress reduction can not be overstated.

Other MLD related cautions

For all chronic conditions of an acute or infective onset, MLD must be commenced with care, using short and superficial treatments to test the persons individualised response to MLD and monitor for a return of any acute symptoms.

Existing immune related symptoms and diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia may also be exacerbated by a new viral exposure and care should be taken even with clients who have successfully received MLD in the past. Also consider rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis and any connective tissue disease, and previous viral infections such as shingles, herpes, Guillian Barre syndrome and Ross River fever.

MLD* has the capacity to reduce overall inflammatory load and aid the body to overcome the long term after-effects of infection with SARs-Cov2.

* I refer specifically to the Dr Vodder method of MLD and effects described may not be achieved with lymphatic effleurage or other forms of lymphatic massage.

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