Lymphatic drainage massage, also known as manual lymphatic drainage, relieves swelling that happens when medical treatment or illness blocks your lymphatic system. Lymphatic drainage massage involves gently manipulating specific areas of your body to help lymph move to an area with working lymph vessels.
Lymph massage can benefit just about everyone.
If you’re feeling tired and low on energy, or if you’ve been sick and feeling like your body is fighting to get back on track, lymph massage would likely serve you well.
Due to table weight restrictions & liability, we are unable to see any clients who weigh over 275 pounds.
Some Conditions That Can Benefit From Lymphatic Drainage Massage
- Lymphatic drainage massages are often used to relieve lymphedema following breast cancer surgery.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: This is ongoing arthritis in your joints causing joint pain, swelling and stiffness.
- Fibromyalgia: This condition causes chronic muscle and joint pain.
- Chronic venous insufficiency: This happens when your leg veins aren’t working effectively, making it hard for your blood to return to your heart from your legs.
- Lipedema: This happens when excess fat accumulates in your lower body, blocking your lymphatic pathway and causing lymphedema.
What is a lymphatic drainage massage used for?
Lymphatic drainage massage, also known as manual lymphatic drainage, is a gentle form of massage used to relieve painful swelling in your arms and legs caused by lymphedema. Lymphedema often affects people recovering from breast cancer surgery.
Lymphedema happens when your tissues retain fluid left behind after your cardiovascular system sends blood to your tissues and organs.
The remaining fluid is called lymph. Normally, your lymphatic system collects your lymph and returns it to your heart via a network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. When something disrupts your lymphatic system’s process, lymph collects in your arms and legs, making them swell.
A massage therapist uses lymphatic drainage massage techniques to move lymph from your tissues to your lymph nodes, which eases the swelling in your tissues.
Do lymphatic drainage massages work?
Healthcare providers are still studying whether lymphatic drainage massages make a difference. Some studies show people age 60 and below benefitted by having lymphatic drainage massages.
How are lymphatic drainage massages done?
A lymphatic drainage massage is a two-step process:
- Clearing: This step releases lymphatic fluid in your tissues.
- Reabsorption: This step moves your lymphatic fluid to your lymph nodes.
Are there other ways to remove lymphatic fluid from my tissues?
Some people benefit from a mechanical process. In this process, you put a sleeve on the swollen arm or leg. The sleeve is attached to a pneumatic pump that pulsates and helps your lymph to drain from your tissues to your lymph nodes.
How can I drain my lymphatic system myself?
Talk to your healthcare provider about learning lymphatic draining massage techniques. They will have information to help you decide if you would benefit from doing lymphatic draining massage yourself or by working with a trained massage therapist.
Are there any risks associated with lymphatic drainage massage?
Generally speaking, lymphatic drainage massage is a safe treatment to relieve lymphedema. There are some conditions and circumstances where lymphatic drainage massage is NOT recommended:
- You have a heart condition.
- You have kidney failure.
- You have blood clots.
- You have an infection.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you’re concerned your physical health might be affected by lymphatic drainage massage.
Will lymphatic drainage massages make my lymphedema go away?
You might not see immediate results from lymphatic drainage massages. If you have several sessions without result, ask your healthcare provider about alternative treatments.
What happens if I'm feeling sick after a lymphatic drainage massage?
Few people have negative reactions to lymphatic drainage massage. Some people, however, complain of headaches, nausea and fatigue. When that happens, you should ask your healthcare provider about managing your side effects.
When should I see my healthcare provider if I'm doing a lymphatic drainage massage?
You should call your provider if your lymphedema appears to be getting worse.
The Lymph System
Most people are familiar with the body’s vessel system that carries blood to and from the tissues, but few understand there is another equally vital system of vessels that removes cell wastes, proteins, excess fluid, viruses, and bacteria. The lymph system picks up fluids and waste products from the spaces between the cells and then filters and cleans them.
Like the roots of a tree, the lymph system starts as tiny vessels–only a single-cell wide–that eventually branch into larger and larger tubes that carry these fluids back to the blood stream. This network of delicate vessels and lymph nodes is the primary structure of the immune system. The lymph nodes act as check points along the pathways of the vessels. They filter the fluid (called lymph) and serve as the home for lymphocytes—little Pac Man-like cells that attack and destroy foreign bacteria and viruses and even abnormal cells, like cancer cells.
When the lymph system works well, we feel healthy and have a strong defense against illness. When it’s sluggish or blocked—say after surgery or an injury—we can have swelling, feel tired, and be more susceptible to colds and infections.
A customized form of bodywork, lymphatic massage may help the lymph system do its job better. By understanding the anatomy and function of this delicate system, your massage therapist can assist your body in clearing sluggish tissues of waste and swelling.
Though lymph vessels are found throughout the body, most of them—about 70 percent—are located just below the skin. These fragile vessels work to pick up fluids between the cell spaces when gentle pressure is applied to them from increased fluid build-up, muscle contractions, or the pressure of a therapist’s hands. By using very light pressures in a rhythmic, circular motion, a massage therapist can stimulate the lymph system to work more efficiently and help it move the lymph fluids back to the heart.
Furthermore, by freeing vessel pathways, lymphatic massage can help retrain the lymph system to work better for more long-term health benefits.
Massage therapists versed in lymphatic drainage therapy, an advanced form of lymphatic massage, can identify the rhythm, direction, and quality of the lymphatic flow and remap drainage pathways.