Getting a massage can be such a tranquil and relaxing experience. From Swedish to deep tissue, there are options for everybody. But there’s one kind of massage that doesn’t get talked about often, even though it’s just as important as having a muscular massage.
It’s lymphatic drainage massage.
What is that, exactly? Is it really that important? In this article, we’ll discuss what lymphatic drainage massage is, its benefits and risks, how often you should do it, the results you may get, and how to perform it at home. Let’s get into it!
What Is The Lymphatic System?
Your lymphatic system is a collection of different vessels and tissues that move a colorless fluid called lymph throughout your body. As part of your immune system, it also helps to remove toxins.
Did you know there are roughly 20 liters of plasma that flow through your body? It flows in your arteries blood vessels and delivers nutrients to all your organs. As the nutrient-waste exchange takes place, 17 liters flow back into your bloodstream. What about the remaining 3 liters? It seeps into your organs and gets collected by your lymph nodes.
Every part of your body has a job to do. Some of the main functions your lymphatic system does are: · Transport and remove waste: As cells are renewed, waste products need to have somewhere to go. Particles are collected into the lymph and transferred to other waste organs to be excreted, such as your colon. · Absorb fats from your digestive tract: While the food you eat is digested down fats and proteins are collected by your lymph and carried back into your bloodstream – recycling at its finest. · Maintain normal fluid levels throughout your body: With over 50% of our body made out of water, it’s important to make sure all fluid levels stay consistent. Too much or too little water can mean major trouble, so your lymph is great at staying on top of things. · Protect you against abnormalities: The lymphatic system helps identify foreign enemies and deals with them accordingly. How? By creating and releasing lymphocytes (aka white blood cells) and other immune cells. Why Massage?
Like all things in life, there will come a time when something goes wrong or doesn’t work properly. Your body is no exception. Birth defects, injury, disease, and disorders can all cause your lymph nodes to slow down or get backed up. Some of the most common issues relating to the lymphatic system include: · Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes): This can happen as an inflammatory response to things such as strep throat, infections, or cancers. · Lymphedema (fluid build-up): Typically seen around the arms and legs, lymph can get built up due to scar tissue or damaged vessels. · Lymphoma (cancers): When lymphocytes grow and multiply uncontrollably, cancer occurs. Tumors can interfere with the flow of lymph by blocking the ducts.
Certain techniques can help stimulate and rejuvenate the flow of lymph in the body. Check out the different benefits of massaging your lymph node pathways below. Benefits
What is lymphatic drainage massage good for? The biggest benefit is a reduction in swelling. Others have found relief from ailments such as: · Arthritis · Insomnia · Fatigue · Swelling · Fibromyalgia · Migraine · Digestive issues · Lymphedema Fun Fact: A study was done in 2015 that showed lymphatic massage seemed to be more effective at relieving depression and stiffness in people with fibromyalgia (1). Risks While lymphatic massage offers many benefits, you should not attempt this if you have kidney disease, blood circulation issues, blood clots, or congestive heart failure. Always talk with your doctor to create the best treatment plan for your specific needs. Frequency
How often should you get a lymphatic drainage massage? That depends on your current health condition. · Mild: If you only have mild health conditions, or just want to spruce up your health regimen, you can perform a lymphatic drainage massage daily. · Moderate: If you suffer from migraines or arthritis, you can try it a few times per week. · Severe: If you’re undergoing chemotherapy or recovering from a severe injury, limit massage to once every few months. A lot of this will depend on how you’re feeling, how swollen certain areas are, or how much pain you are in. If you begin and it gets too uncomfortable, stop and try again later. Results Does lymphatic drainage massage really work? Those who use this gentle technique often have less swelling in problem areas. They also experience greater mobility and less stiffness.
Other Ways To Boost Lymphatic Drainage Our body is made up of a lot of functions that need each other to operate most efficiently. The lymphatic system is no different. One of its main jobs is to remove waste from the body, but it needs help to do that. Along with massage, keeping up with these can help your lymphatic system stay in ship shape: · Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables · Getting regular exercise · Reducing the amount of processed food you eat · Staying hydrated The fewer toxins our body has to flush out, the easier it is on our lymph system.
How To Perform
You can have a lymphatic massage done professionally, or you can do it yourself. Either way, keep these in mind as you set yourself up for the best possible experience. Lymphatic massage is a very versatile technique and can be done lying down, sitting up, or standing. Because lymph is everywhere in the body, massage can be done just about anywhere. Physical therapist Raakhee Patel teaches that there are two stages of lymphatic massage: clearing and reabsorption (2). Clearing helps to create a vacuum effect by using gentle pressure of the fingers or hand. Some call this “sweeping”. As this is done, the area is prepared to bring in more fluid, creating a flushing effect. Where clearing is usually done:
inside of the elbows
directly under the collarbone
under the arms.
These motions can be repeated up to 10 times a day. Remember: It’s always best to massage both sides of your body, not just the side that has swelling or pain.
How To Perform Clearing Techniques
Below is a breakdown of how to clear your lymphatic pathways. For best results, follow this specific order: 1) Under the collarbone:
Lie on a comfortable, flat surface.
Cross your arms over your chest. Rest your hands just below your collarbones.
Slowly lift your elbows. The muscles used to do this provide enough pressure to prepare this area for flushing.
2) The arms:
Place one hand above your head – left hand or right hand doesn’t matter.
Using your other hand, do scooping motions in the underarm area. Scoop from top to bottom. Don’t apply too much pressure – if the skin is moving, that’s good enough.
3) Inside the elbows:
Let your arms rest on your side.
Using a couple of fingers from your other hand, gently move the skin inside the elbow toward back and forth. You can do this an inch at a time.
You only need to apply the slightest pressure for it to be effective. Lymphatic fluid is typically trapped just under the skin, so there’s no need to use extreme force. Performing lymphatic drainage massage on your legs The goal here is to open the lymphatic vessels. This will allow excess fluid to drain back up into the groin lymph nodes. There is no particular order for this, as long as the fluid is freed up to drain back. To perform leg lymphatic massage, follow the steps below:
Perform lymphatic massage of the upper body first (collarbone, arms, inner elbow).
Start at the furthest point of your leg, away from the injury or affected area, and work your way down. For instance, if your ankle is swollen, start by massaging the upper part of the leg.
Starting at the top of the leg, put one hand on the inside and the other on the back.
Using gentle strokes, move the skin from the inside of your leg up, out, and toward your hip.
Continue down the leg until you get to your knee.
Once you reach your knee, stretch the skin up towards your armpit.
Repeat at least 10 times, but no more than 15 times.
Now the clearing part is done. Let’s move on to the reabsorption stage. How to Perform Reabsorption Techniques This is the second stage of lymphatic drainage massage. Some things to keep in mind:
Always start at the affected part of the body farthest from the core. For example, if you have swelling in your hand, arm, or shoulder, start by massaging your fingertips.
Use gentle, sweeping motions. You only need enough pressure to move the surface of the skin. You can massage from fingertip to hand, from hand to elbow, and from elbow to shoulder. Moving in small increments can help.
To introduce the reabsorption stage in the legs, pump your knee a few times:
Place both hands behind your knee.
Gently pump back and forth, around 10 to 15 times.
Now your knee can accept and facilitate fluid from the lower leg. Now you can massage the lower legs:
Place one hand on top of your shin, and the other behind your leg.
Gently pull the skin up towards your heart, then release.
Continue in sections, down toward the ankle.
Repeat down through the ankle and feet. Always stroke upward.
Finish by gently pushing fluid in the toes upward using your fingers.
Lymphatic drainage massage is an incredible exercise that can reduce swelling, help with pain, and increase circulation. Stagnation is never good, so a moving body is a healthy body!
There are two stages to lymphatic drainage massage: clearing and reabsorption. Lymph pathways need to be cleared to allow excess fluid to drain through. Once they are cleared, nutrients can be reabsorbed.
Always check with your doctor before beginning lymphatic drainage massage. While it offers many benefits, it’s not recommended for those who suffer congenital heart disease, kidney issues, or blood clots.