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Simple Lymphatic Drainage (SLD)


When managing lymphoedema, self-care is a daily necessity. Patients can take care of themselves in a variety of ways. Simple Lymphatic Drainage will be one of the everyday routines.

What is Simple Lymphatic Drainage (SLD)?

SLD is a gentle massage that helps to move the lymph fluid away from congested or swollen areas towards an area of the lymphatic system where it can drain more effectively.  Does that sound complicated to you? It needn’t be; let me explain.

For several reasons, the whole of the right side of my body, the lymphatic system, is compromised and swells regularly.  Through hand movements, keeping my hand in contact with my skin, I move my hand from the right side across my chest to the left side, gently stretching the skin as I go; then, I release my hand, and the skin returns in place. 


I do this on dry skin and don’t use creams, lotions, or oils. Some of the members may use talc. This daily massage should not cause any bruising or redness. I do this as part of my daily morning routine, although you may find that sometimes you will need to do this more often during the day, depending on your swelling.

I hope that your lymphoedema nurse or therapist will have shown you how to do SLD, if not ask them to show you. 

Do not perform SLD if you feel unwell or have an infection. Please contact your Lymphoedema clinic if you are unsure. 

Where you taught SLD?

In March 2023 in a poll on support group, I asked the following question of our support group members. On diagnosis of lymphoedema, were you taught Simple Lymphatic Drainage (SLD) by a health care professional.


The video below shows the results.

Simple Lymphatic Drainage and Deep Breathing


Deep breathing is important and appropriate for all types of lymphoedema as part of your SLD. It helps lymph return to the blood stream by altering the pressure in your chest and abdomen. The video demonstrates how this quick daily routine can promote relaxation and lymphatic health.

Be Aware

Avoid performing SLD if you are unwell or have an infection. Please contact your local lymphoedema clinic if you are unsure or have any queries.

While it may seem obvious to most of us, those of us with lymphoedema, need to protect ourselves from inflammation, I have talked to folks who were never informed of the risks. The advice and suggestions in this section are meant to lower your risk of contracting an infection like cellulitis.

Signs to watch for:

You feel unwell, as if 'flu' is starting, symptoms can include.

  • fever

  • shivers

  • muscular aches and pains

  • headache, nausea

  • vomiting  

  • acute spreading inflammation of the skin

The swollen area usually develops a rash or becomes red, hot, and tender to touch. 

Swelling may dramatically increase, and pain may occur in the swollen area, or the arm pit, with lymphoedema of the arm, or the groin with lymphoedema of the leg.

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