Manual Lymph Drainage History (MLD®)

The original method of Manual Lymph Drainage was developed by Emil Vodder PhD and his wife, Estrid Vodder, ND in the 1930’s. 

Emil Vodder was born in Copenhagen on February 20, 1896.  At the University of Copenhagen he took biology, mineralogy and botany which is where he began studying medicine, cytology and microscopy.  Early during his studies he also became interested in physical medicine.

Emil had to interrupt his medical studies near the end of the 8th semester because he contracted malaria.  After recuperation he was no longer admitted to finishing his medical studies.

In 1928, the University of Brussels conferred upon Emil Vodder the title PhD, because of his thesis on Historical Art.

In 1933, Vodder and his wife moved to Paris where they continued their biological studies.  They especially dedicated their time to the anatomy and physiology of the lymph vessel system.  In a large anatomical atlas Vodder found a collection of wonderful copper engravings by the anatomist SAPPEY (Description et iconographie des vaisseaux lymphatique concideres chez l’homme et de les vertebres, Paris 1885).  These engravings were the fundamental basis for a systematic and clear working method, which Emil Vodder elaborated by intuition and many practical treatments.  A completely new manual technique was necessary which was performed with pumping, circling movements and a very light pressure in order to avoid hyperemia under all circumstances.

In 1936 Vodder presented his method to the world as MANUAL LYMPH DRAINAGE according to Dr. VODDER, during a congress in Paris.

It was not until the early 50’s that Vodder received invitations from European countries to teach his method.  In the early 60’s a German general practitioner, Dr. Asdonk, heard of Vodder and became interested in this method.  Therapists owe a lot to Dr. Asdonk.  As a physician he recognized the importance of Vodder’s method and gave us the first list if indications.  Lymphedemas– as we know and treat them today – were not an indication at that time.

It was in 1966 that Günther Wittlinger, first came in contact with Dr. Vodder.  Vodder, Asdonk and Wittlinger founded the ASSOCIATION OF DR. VODDER’S MANUAL LYMPH DRAINAGE       in 1967.  Wittlinger and Vodder also founded the very first Dr. Vodder School in 1972 in Walchsee – Austria.

In Europe, MLD has since grown to become a widely used and reimbursable physical therapy technique.  It is the most prescribed and reimbursed physical therapy in Germany.

The Dr. Vodder method of MLD was first introduced to North America by Hildegard and Guenther Wittlinger at a conference in New York in 1972. Ten years later they returned to Toronto, Canada to begin the training program for therapists and met Robert Harris, who is now the director of the Dr. Vodder School – International.  Through many classes in The US and Canada in the1980s, MLD gradually became known and eventually the Dr. Vodder School – North America was founded in 1993.

Hildegard and Guenther Wittlinger along with Robert Harris, helped to establish MLD in North America.  Together and now with more certified instructors of the Dr. Vodder School, they have trained many thousands of therapists.

Full certification has been available in North America since 1993 through the Dr. Vodder School and is taught in other countries such as Australia, Singapore, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, UK and many European countries.